As Day Zero draws near, the Democratic Alliance’s PR machine was hard at work trying to mend the image of the official opposition that has been dented by infighting as taps run dry.
The leader of the Democratic Alliance, Mmusi Maimane says that he is not happy with how the political communication around the water crisis in Cape Town has been handled. Maimane was speaking at the press conference to launch the #DefeatDayZero campaign in Athlone on Wednesday. Conspicuously absent from the press conference was Mayor Patricia de Lille who the party has recently announced will be charged for actions that have negatively impacted the image of the party and for failing to perform her duties as the mayor amongst others.
“I am not fully satisfied with the way the City has responded to the drought crisis. Its communication, in particular, has fallen short,” said Maimane to the crowd of party supporters who attended the press conference. Pressed for his involvement by a journalist, Maimane said the information that was churned out was “inaccurate” and that he is taking a principled stand as the leader of the party to make sure that they deliver on the promises that they made to voters.
Cape Town and the Western Cape is facing a water crisis and the City of Cape Town has announced the 12th of April as the day that the taps will run dry. The day has been dubbed Day Zero. According to Maimane, Cape Town is facing the worst drought ever and the water crisis is a result of natural causes. It is widely reported, however,, that experts warned about water scarcity in Cape Town as far back as 2009.
“No time to be pointing fingers”
One of the key messages that every party leader emphasized is a commitment not to blame one another. “Now is not the time for politicking and finger-pointing. We do not have the luxury of time. We need to unite behind this common mission to defeat Day Zero,” said Maimane to a clapping crowd of party supporters.
But throughout the press conference, DA leaders pointed out how the national government has failed to act and help the City to deal with the crisis. The Western Cape Premier and former Mayor of Cape Town, Helen Zille especially could not restrain herself. “Pointing out who has the responsibility in time of disaster [and finger pointing] are two different things,” said Zille who has been tasked to deal with disaster management after Day Zero. She alleges that in mid-December she got a letter from the Water and Sanitation Department proposing the construction of a desalination plant at the V&A Waterfront and had already appointed a contractor, not knowing that the City already had plans to build a smaller desalination plant at the Waterfront. “This shows that they really have no idea,” said Zille.
Xanthea Limberg who together with the Deputy Mayor of Cape Town, Ian Neilson will be heading the drought crisis team said that they have received no support from the national government to deal with the crisis.
According to the City of Cape Town as from the 1st of February residents must use no more than 50 litres per person per day. A drought levy that the City was proposing was scrapped but Maimane said that they will go after those who exceed their allocation. “We will unapologetically go after residents who for no good reason exceed their allocation. Every week 2000-2500 water demand devices are being installed at households who exceed their allowance. This programme will now be accelerated,” said Maimane.
Maimane promised that the new team will hold weekly briefings on progress made. He begged citizens to reduce demand for water and stick to the 50 litres daily allocation.