President Cyril Ramaphosa should not be “shocked” about the drought crippling parts of the country and should order premiers to take urgent action, interim DA leader John Steenhuisen said on Thursday.
“Failure to recognise the severity of the drought that has gripped all nine of our provinces – and any further delays in putting in place measures to mitigate the impact of this threat – will have catastrophic consequences for our nation,” said Steenhuisen.
Steenhuisen visited Kimberley around the same time Ramaphosa was in the Diamond City.
“This is the stark reality that our government can no longer ignore, and which surely has to be addressed in the president’s January 8 statement on Saturday.”
The ANC, which Ramaphosa also heads, will mark its 108th birthday celebrations at a rally in Kimberley on Saturday.
Steenhuisen said lessons can be learnt from how the DA-run City of Cape Town managed the drought.
“Nowhere is this looming catastrophe more evident than right here in the Northern Cape, and it is perhaps a blessing in disguise that the ANC has chosen to host its birthday celebration here,” he said.
“President Ramaphosa has now been in the Northern Cape for the better part of a week and would have seen first-hand the devastation caused by the ongoing drought.
“He cannot later claim to be shocked by this situation.”
Steenhuisen said nobody can produce rain, but lessening the impact of the drought and protecting food security and the agricultural sector during the crisis is possible. He said Cape Town proved this with its range of water saving and water protection measures, and a massive effort by residents.
“If there’s one thing that we in the DA know too well, it’s that the climate can wreak havoc with your plans and commitments to deliver to the people.”
He noted that the drought in the Western Cape is far from over with parts of the Karoo, the West Coast and the Overberg still in danger, “but at least there is a plan in place”.
This includes infrastructure repair, maintenance and upgrades, rainwater harvesting, alien vegetation clearing and the adoption of a “smart agriculture plan”.
The release of R50 million in drought relief funding by triggering Section 25 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) had also helped.
“It is extremely worrying that none of the other provinces affected by this drought seem to share this sense of urgency and concern,” he said.
He appealed to Ramaphosa to use his audience on Saturday to get people to recognise the urgency of the situation.
Provinces can also redirect their own funds through Section 25 of the PFMA.
“If the premiers of affected provinces won’t do so themselves, then it falls on President Ramaphosa to step in and compel them to do so,” said Steenhuisen.
He reiterated a call in October to Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to declare a national disaster due to the drought.