Cosatu concern over water crisis
Day Zero ‘could see many workers losing their jobs’ Widow relives fatal stabbing encounter
THE threat of mass job losses and health and hygiene concerns due to Cape Town’s water crisis is coming into sharper focus as Day Zero nears.
The country’s biggest trade union federation has raised alarms about the impact of the drought and more specifically of Day Zero on job security.
Cape Town is facing its worst drought in over a century, with plans to shut down the water supply to various areas in the city come April 16. Cosatu’s Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich said the trade union was concerned about workers not being able to use toilets due to the water supply problem, which poses a health threat. He also said a number of industries were dependent on water to operate. “There is a real danger of job loss, and hygiene concerns are a real challenge.”
Cosatu will meet with the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry to discuss their concerns.
Ehrenreich said Cosatu was of the view that businesses needed to supply their workers with water to take the load off the watering points. “We want to encourage businesses to harvest water by drilling boreholes and catching water so that workers will be able to access it at work.”
He said businesses should think of having small water purification plants as well.
Instead of standing in long queues and missing work to collect their daily 25 litres of water at the various water collection points, companies could distribute the daily allocation directly to their workers through their own resources. He added that during this drought and with the latest Level 6b water restrictions in place, poor people were suffering the most.
He said the punitive tariff for Level 6b had been calculated based on a four-person household, whereas in most cases there were far more people living on a property in the township areas.
He believes that in order to push Day Zero back, the City should implement water shedding and cut water off at certain times.
In a recent survey conducted by the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 55% of businesses said they would harvest rain water, while 33% would use boreholes and well points, with some indicating they would be planning their own reverse osmosis desalination plants.
In its statement, the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that businesses planned to use chemical toilets in the basement as well, while some have also said they planned to work in shifts to allow staff time to collect water at watering points.
“Business clearly has more faith in rainwater tanks, boreholes and new technology than in conventional water supplies. The feeling is that the authorities have done too little too late and the only solution now is a major desalination plant rather than the small ones the city has proposed,” said Janine Myburgh, president of the Chamber.
According to the survey conducted by the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, when Day Zero arrives, 69% of businesses will continue as normal, while 11% will send their people home and 6.7% will shut down.
Gavin Joseph, deputy chairperson of the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance, also believes that Cape Town’s poorer residents are at a disadvantage.
Those who are financially secure are better equipped to deal with the drought, he said.
There are also serious safety concerns for especially gangplagued areas when Day Zero hits.
Joseph’s concerns are not only around safety at water collection points, but also around the safety of individuals when they return home with their water.
“What if gang violence breaks out?”
He also said there were safety concerns for older people carrying water home, and for those unable to carry or collect their water.
“There should be different systems of control for the different areas.”
Joseph said there were still many unanswered questions and too little door-to-door awareness campaigns being conducted by the government to educate and inform people about the drought as well as its health implications, especially in the poorer communities.
Mark van der Heever, spokesperson for the provincial health department, said that currently there was no evidence that the drought had led to an increase in diseases or drought-related illnesses, “but ongoing monitoring is needed”.
However, he said that in times of water shortage the risk of infectious disease increased when hygiene wasn’t maintained.
“Health-care workers have been put on high alert to be vigilant and to maintain a high index of suspicion when evaluating patients.
“They are also continually encouraging the public to practise good hygiene as this remains the number one way of preventing illness.”
He said hand hygiene remained the best method to prevent the contracting and spreading of disease. THE third time Julia Notten pepper sprayed the attacker stabbing her husband, the canister ran dry. So she turned and sped towards Echo Valley where she was certain she would find help, all the time expecting to be knifed in the back.
These are just some of the harrowing details recounted by the widow of helicopter pilot Douglas Notten, 57, who was stabbed to death last Sunday while enjoying a walk with Julia, 54, on the familiar paths above their St James home.
Mindful of the previous weekend’s knife attack on a group of nine hikers on a Silvermine Nature Reserve trail above Boyes Drive, the couple, who had been married 27 years, set off about 9.15am on the contour path above St James more prepared than usual. Douglas carried a walking stick and Julia was armed with pepper spray.
They were also more alert than usual. “That was the terrible thing about that morning. Douglas kept reminding me to scan the rocks and certain paths for anyone hiding along the way, to always be fully aware,” said Notten.
The couple have been running and walking the route alone for the past 17 years and wanted to continue rather than be intimidated. “We wanted to reassure ourselves that we could still enjoy our mountain.”
After over an hour on the trail, with Notten leading on the narrow Tuinkloof path, she turned around to talk to her husband and saw a stranger about 10 metres behind him.
“He came from nowhere and I got a strange feeling that something wasn’t right. A fellow hiker could not have approached so suddenly.
“I said to Douglas we should let him pass. All of a sudden the man got closer to Douglas, pushed past him and pulled out a knife. Douglas used his stick to try and push him away. Everything happened so quickly.
“I remember seeing Douglas’s shoulder bleeding and realising he had been stabbed. Then I felt some-
thing heavy hit my thumb, a rock or a stone. It was sore and I struggled to open my bag to get the pepper spray gun out.
“I sprayed him once and he turned his head away and retreated about two steps. I thought that maybe the attack was over but he came back and I sprayed him again and he seemed to avoid it.
“The third time I pulled the trigger it was empty. He threw two more rocks at me, one on my chest the other on my hand. Douglas tried to defend us again but the man pulled the stick out of his hand and pulledhim down and dragged him along and stabbed him.
“I didn’t see how often but I know now it was six or seven times. I turned and ran and ran. I purposefully did not look back but kept imagining hearing his steps behind me and him stabbing me in the back. I was very, very scared. Frantic.”
A few minutes later Notten screamed to a hiker who had just walked through the amphitheatre. “We ran down the path together, trying to get a phone signal. But it took about 15 minutes before we got through to emergency services.”
Along the way they met more hikers. One named Steve went back to help Douglas. “I was desperate that he get medical assistance.”
Back on Boyes Drive, Notten agreed to guide a Cape Medical Response medic to her husband.
Halfway up they met Steve who said it was too late. Julia remembers the murderer as “a tall, well-built man who looked strong. He was very dark skinned. He was well dressed in off-white pants and a short sleeved olive green shirt. He looked like he shopped at Cape Union Mart. He didn’t look like a hiker. He wasn’t carrying anything. No rucksack, no water, nothing.”
He was not a security guard as has been mistakenly reported, said Notten .
She believes violence, not robbery was his motive. “He didn’t say a word. He just mumbled and made animal-like noises. He never asked us for valuables. .He was a psychopathic monster who just wanted to kill.”
Notten said it was heartbreaking to witness her pilot husband’s last flight in a helicopter carrying his body bag.
Julia Notten and her husband Douglas.