The Blame Game

OK. Here goes. I rarely do “opinion” posts on the blog any more because there’s rarely anything I feel strongly enough about to be bothered to wade through mentions on Twitter, comments on here, insults flung at me on my journey to and from work and hate mail delivered to my home address three months later via the SAPO.

But I feel I need to say something.

I’ve been  watching the Cape Town water crisis with interest for a long while now. I’ve blogged about it an awful lot. And while “crisis” seemed a strong word 25 months ago when water restrictions were first introduced, we’re now staring down the barrel of a rather terrifying gun, with fewer than 100 days left until Day Zero – the day the taps will be turned off.

An entire city of 4 MILLION residents is going to run out of water in just 3 months time. And yet, a quick glance at the City’s Water Dashboard gives us this picture:

What, if I may be so bold, the actual fandango?

Just 39% of residents are using fewer than 87l water per person per day. That’s frankly appalling, and it shows a huge disregard and/or misunderstanding for the gravity of the situation.

You think that showering with a bucket is inconvenient? (It can be, I agree.)

But when Day Zero arrives:
There will be no water in your home. None.
Literally nothing will come out of your taps.

Want water? Go to one of the ±200 city-wide collection points and queue for it. 25 litres per person per day.
25 litres of water weighs 25kg, by the way. Transport that, mate. Every single day.

Businesses will be forced to close.
Closed business = no income = staff being laid off.
Schools won’t be able to open, creating a childcare nightmare for parents, and an educational nightmare for schools and students.

And Day Zero won’t last a day. The biggest misnomer since Pussy Galore, right there. Day Zero is when it starts.
Brace yourself for 3-6 months of no water supply.

Sadly, if scare tactics – or “the truth” as most people call it – worked, we’d already be doing a lot better than we are.

But I digress. This paragraph from David Olivier’s independent report on the current crisis has stuck with me:

Blame shifting, fault finding and panic are usual reactions to water crises all over the world. Some anxiety is good, as it motivates water saving, but blame shifting actually pushes responsibility away, and causes water wastage. The best attitude Cape Town’s people can adopt is for every person to do their best, together.

(emphasis by me)

This isn’t a political post. Absolutely not. I have no party axe to grind. But it does seem to me that there is a blame culture which has flourished in recent weeks. People saying that this water crisis has been poorly-managed by the City.

My personal feeling is that they’ve done ok considering the lack of any precedent here and the 20/20 hindsight that their detractors are blessed with. I think any city, any government, any party would have struggled with the challenge of a 1 in 1000 climatic event:

And I’m always intrigued to hear what the critics would have done differently.

But those are just my thoughts. Other opinions are available.
And, as I’m about to point out, none of that actually matters anyway.

I think David is absolutely right: this blame game has given people a convenient scapegoat which in turn has led to them choosing to ignore what, in this situation, are very clearly their social responsibilities.

So here’s my plan.

Blame and anger don’t contribute to our water supply. That’s not how the water supply works.

You can’t drink outrage.

If you want to stick it to Patricia de Lille, the City, the DA, the Provincial Government, the National Government or whomsoever, then next time your opportunity to vote comes around, you must do just that.
That’s how democracy works. Literally, the power of the people.

(Remember to choose wisely, just in case this happens again.)

But attempting to spite any or all of those individuals or bodies by refusing to cut down on your water usage is misguided and isn’t going to help anyone. Even yourself.

Spoiler alert:
Your political affiliations and opinions are not an excuse to not save water.

It’s time (it was time a long while back, actually) to put on your big boy panties, take a step back (and up) and choose to overlook the petty politics right now.
Deal with stuff that later.

Right now, collectively, we need to reach out to that missing two-thirds of residents who are still using too much water – the Day Zero denialists, the monied individuals in Bishopscourt, the Observatory anarchists, the tannies in Pinelands with their precious lawns, that oke in Durbanville that just doesn’t care – and rein them in. And if they want to moan all over the newspapers and social media and and and… about us doing it, well they must knock themselves out.
Just as long as they’re saving water while they’re doing it. Because if they don’t come to the party, we’re very definitely doomed.

I’m aware that this is pie in the sky thinking. I’m aware that if people actually cared about this situation, they’d be saving already. But just imagine if the residents worked with the City instead of pointlessly fighting the system (“pointlessly” because as I’ve pointed out – using water just because you hate the DA is a recipe for disaster), fiddling as Rome burns.

If you’re one of those individuals I’ve mentioned above, you’ve probably not read this far. But on the off-chance that you have, for the good of everyone: rich, poor, black, white, young and old please can you please start saving some water?

We need to pull together here. Or we’re all massively, massively buggered.


(Don’t @ me.)

7 thoughts on “The Blame Game

  1. To quote a popular afrikaans saying “As jy nie wil hoer nie, moet jy voel”. Sadly those 1 in 3 of us who are trying our best will be punished alongside the idiots.

  2. The management has been a shambles. If you listened to the mayor and her team 6 months ago and seen the presentations that they were doing, you would know that they had a plan and were promising sufficient augmentation. It was tough (even though some did) to argue at the time time that they were behind the curve because all they needed to do was point to their glossy spreadsheets. Except, they weren’t telling the truth. They weren’t giving the full picture. They were clearly over promising. But how were we to know? As every month passes it becomes clearer and clearer how poor the planning and implementation has been. Fortunately I have been to many of their forums and have been paying attention to what they have been saying for 2 years. That allows me to form an opinion about their response to this drought. I can blame them and save water (and help others save) at the same time.

  3. Phaezen > At least we can look at the Mountain as we dessicate.

    Russell > First off, thanks for the assumption that I haven’t attended any of the city’s water resilience presentations. Also, clearly, you feel that I haven’t been paying attention to what they have been saying.
    Both incorrect statements, but don’t let that get in the way of your diatribe.
    Like I said, find someone else to vote for next time if you feel that the situation been poorly managed.

    Then again, if you listened to the National Department of Water and Sanitation 8 months ago, they said that this wasn’t a crisis, and CoCt was merely trying to extract money from the national fiscus for their personal use.
    The chances of 3 consecutive years with basically no rainfall were/are tiny. And where does the money come from to fund water augmentation projects that might not be needed and is therefore seen as wastage? No win situation for the City.
    As I said in the post, hindsight is 20/20. DWS *STILL* hasn’t given any reasonable sum to assist the situation and the residents turned down the drought levy. And yet the CoCT is expected to find water from aquifers and desalination – with what money?

    I’m glad that you can see beyond your anger/disappointment over your opinion that the CoCT is to blame for all of this and that you’re saving water. Sadly, too many people still aren’t and – because we can’t magically make it rain (the root cause of all of this) – that’s simply courting disaster. Hence my post.

  4. Diatribe? Had to just check that up “a forceful and bitter verbal attack against someone or something”. I’m out.

  5. Yup….that’s what upsets me the most!! We harvest rain water, shower standing in a tub….use that water to flush our toilets…..and our water bill is always less than R20. Then I find someone we know in Durbanville refilling their swimming pool with municipal water incurring a R6000 water bill and they just don’t give a damn!! Makes me furious!!

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