Cosatu con­cern over wa­ter cri­sis

Day Zero ‘could see many work­ers los­ing their jobs’ Widow re­lives fa­tal stabbing en­counter

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - TANYA PETERSEN MIKE BEHR

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.

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