Govern­ment needs to fo­cus on long-term so­lu­tions to the wa­ter cri­sis

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - OPINION -

TV NEWS chan­nel eNCA ded­i­cated a whole day on Wa­ter Watch. It is ob­vi­ous that Cape Town and other ar­eas face a se­ri­ous wa­ter cri­sis.

Imag­ine sur­viv­ing on just 50 litres of potable wa­ter a day.

The ques­tion is why are the bu­reau­crats in­volved in re­solv­ing the wa­ter cri­sis play­ing nam­ing and blam­ing games?

Surely the au­thor­i­ties should have seen this dis­as­ter loom­ing? A good ex­am­ple is the res­o­lu­tion of a wa­ter cri­sis is Richards Bay in KZN. A joint ef­fort be­tween govern­ment and busi­ness saw the in­stal­la­tion of a de­sali­na­tion plant.

This plant, that con­verts sea wa­ter to potable wa­ter and churns out mil­lions of litres of wa­ter, is the lifeblood of this town.

Ac­cord­ing to the mayor, there was a time when some big busi­nesses were threat­en­ing to pull out if the wa­ter cri­sis was not re­solved, which would have re­sulted in thou­sands of job losses and lost rev­enue to the town’s cof­fers. For­tu­nately, this did not hap­pen.

Cape Town needs to fol­low suit and build de­sali­na­tion plants or the city will be in dire straits. Even if the rains come and the dams fill up, the plant could serve as a backup for wa­ter sup­ply.

Cape Town is a top tourist des­ti­na­tion for lo­cal and over­seas tourists which will very rapidly de­cline.

This will be a huge loss to the city’s cof­fers re­sult­ing in many job losses. ANC pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa re­cently an­nounced that the nu­clear deal will not hap­pen as the coun­try has ex­cess power ca­pac­ity.

The bil­lions of rand that would have been used for the nu­clear project should be di­rected to re­solve the drought cri­sis .

The build­ing of more dams, drilling bore­holes and de­sali­na­tion plants is now a govern­ment pri­or­ity to save the coun­try from the rav­ages of drought.

Wa­ter is life and with­out potable wa­ter we are noth­ing.

Vi­jay Sew­ta­hal

Clare Es­tate IT’S hard to imag­ine a sit­u­a­tion where as a South African edi­tor I would need to sleep on the floor of my of­fice in down­town Pre­to­ria, fear­ing ar­rest by plain-clothed po­lice of­fi­cers camped out­side the build­ing.

They say it could never hap­pen in demo­cratic South Africa – that me­dia houses are shut down and ed­i­tors ar­rested from their homes and of­fices. Let’s hope it never does.

But that is what we all thought about Kenya – sup­pos­edly an­other bea­con of democ­racy on the African con­ti­nent, with a ro­bust me­dia that re­ported freely since the end of for­mer Pres­i­dent Daniel Arap Moi’s rule. But no more, those days are long gone. Some of my me­dia col­leagues in Kenya were sleep­ing on the floors of their of­fices on Wed­nes­day for fear of ar­rest as plain-clothed po­lice of­fi­cers camped out­side. This is re­ally a dark day for me­dia free­dom in Africa.

To think Kenya’s Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta was in South Africa for the ANC’s 106th an­niver­sary on Jan­uary 8, be­ing given a rous­ing wel­come as “Com­rade Keny­atta.” Lit­tle did we think that less than a month later jour­nal­ists in his coun­try would fear for their well­be­ing and free­dom.

The African Ed­i­tors Fo­rum, of which our own Jovial Ran­tao is chair­per­son, has “con­demned in the strong­est pos­si­ble terms the out­dated, dra­co­nian and de­plorable act by the govern­ment of Kenya to muz­zle the me­dia cov­er­ing an event or­gan­ised by op­po­si­tion leader

Raila Odinga”.

That event was what some have char­ac­terised as a “stunt” by the op­po­si­tion, which held a mock swear­ing-in cer­e­mony of Odinga as pres­i­dent in Uhuru park on Tues­day. The op­po­si­tion re­mains ag­grieved by what they con­sider was a sham re-run elec­tion in Oc­to­ber.

In Septem­ber the Supreme

Court had an­nulled the Au­gust pres­i­den­tial elec­tions due to a botched count, and or­dered a re-run. But the op­po­si­tion boy­cotted the re-run as the coun­try’s elec­toral com­mis­sion said they could not guar­an­tee a proper bal­lot and judges were be­ing in­tim­i­dated. As a re­sult, Keny­atta com­menced a sec­ond fiveyear term.

The govern­ment called Tues­day’s mock swear­ing-in cer­e­mony trea­son, but to the thou­sands of op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers who at­tended the event, it was an ex­pres­sion of dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the cur­rent state of af­fairs in the coun­try. The Na­tional Su­per Al­liance, which Odinga leads, has said they have launched a na­tional re­sis­tance to a govern­ment which was not elected ac­cord­ing to the con­sti­tu­tion.

What ap­pears self-ev­i­dent is that Keny­atta and Odinga are en­gaged in a high-stakes game of brinkman­ship in a coun­try that is more po­larised than ever. But what can­not be tol­er­ated is the muz­zling of the me­dia at a time when the Fourth Es­tate is needed more than ever to carry out its duty to in­form the pub­lic.

As the African Ed­i­tors Fo­rum state­ment noted, the pres­ence of jour­nal­ists (at an event) is nei­ther an in­di­ca­tion of sup­port nor a lack thereof, but is a con­sti­tu­tional duty to record for the pub­lic events of ma­jor pub­lic in­ter­est and im­por­tance. By the Kenyan govern­ment shut­ting down in­de­pen­dent tele­vi­sion and ra­dio sta­tions that cov­ered the event, which was of ma­jor pub­lic in­ter­est, it sig­nalled in­tol­er­ance and a slide to­wards au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism. For the govern­ment to cen­sor views or events it does not agree with is quite sim­ply an abuse of its power.

The me­dia in Kenya has worked tire­lessly to en­sure the coun­try’s demo­cratic space is safe­guarded and ac­ces­si­ble, and it has fought hard against po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence and me­dia cap­ture. It is very distress­ing that in­de­pen­dent me­dia sta­tions such as Cit­i­zen TV, Inoora TV, Kenya TV Net­work, and NTV (owned by the Na­tion Me­dia Group) have been muz­zled. Only the state-owned Kenya Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion and K24 were al­lowed to con­tinue broad­cast­ing. K24 is owned by Me­dia­max, of which the Keny­atta fam­ily are share­hold­ers.

The govern­ment’s ac­tion un­der­lines a trend since 2013 when Keny­atta first took of­fice. If me­dia free­dom is a barom­e­ter for gen­eral free­dom, we should treat the lat­est de­vel­op­ments with the se­ri­ous­ness they de­serve.

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