NMB Day Zero is almost upon us: Letter from DA Leader, John Steenhuisen

Issued by DA Leader – John Steenhuisen
22 Jun 2022 in News

Dear Nelson Mandela Bay Resident,

The day we have all feared has arrived.

Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) is South Africa’s first major city to run out of water, leaving hundreds of thousands of residents high and dry. It is a terrifying fact that 40% of NMB will soon be without water while some parts of the city have already started to run dry.

What is most infuriating about this situation is that it could have been avoided almost entirely or, at the very least, we could have pushed Day Zero out by months. There are some who will have you believe that this is strictly a drought issue. While there is indeed a pervasive drought in the region, the reality is that we have run out of water due to mismanagement, incompetence and greed. The defunding of critical projects, the lack of skills, political disruption, poor communication, failure to rapidly repair leaks… and the list goes on.

On taking office in 2016, the Democratic Alliance (DA) immediately implemented water restrictions. In so doing, within a couple of months we brought water consumption down from 300 megalitres to 250 megalitres per day. A drought mitigation plan was drafted, funding was secured, and a contractor appointed to implement this plan. In the 2018/19 financial year, while the DA-led coalition was in government, we secured R750 million in long-term loan funding of which most was earmarked for water infrastructure projects. This funding was to be used to expedite the integration of the City’s water infrastructure with the Nooitgedacht Low-Level Scheme – this project has now been abandoned by the ANC.

The DA had a plan and that plan was on track to deliver water security for all of the residents of NMB. When the DA was unceremoniously removed from government in 2018 these projects ground to a halt and, at best, to a slow trickle.

When the ANC coalition of corruption took over in 2018, many of these drought mitigation projects were put on hold or were simply not implemented by the ANC government. Funding was redirected to projects where money could be easily stolen, and the rest is history. The ongoing mismanagement, political interference and disruption to funding of critical projects is what has brought us to where we are today.

When we returned to government in NMB at the end of 2020 the DA and our coalition partners immediately embarked on reviving these projects and allocating additional funding to ensure water security. Sadly we did not get back into government after the 2021 local government elections and little to nothing has happened since then under the ANC and their coalition partners.

Throughout all of this, the DA has not sat back and watched from the side lines. We have worked hard to create awareness and offer solutions through council, parliament and our communities. 

We have:

  • held dozens of town hall meetings – both in person and online,
  • launched a website to keep residents informed,
  • run regular social media campaigns to reduce demand and delay Day Zero,
  • tabled detailed plans to the authorities,
  • lobbied national government to intervene in NMB,
  • exposed NMB’s contaminated water earlier this year,
  • raised the alarm that NMB was overdrawing from the dams thus expediting Day Zero, and
  • identified unused dams that can be reconnected to augment supply.

Many projects commissioned during the period when the DA was in government have never been completed, or even got off the ground, which has left 40% of residents now facing the inevitability of no water for many months ahead.

We are committed to establishing the state of all planned projects to integrate the Nooitgedacht system. The NMB Metropolitan Municipality (the Metro) has been unable to come clean as to which of these projects have been completed, are still in the planning phase, or have even fallen by the wayside due to insufficient budget.

The DA will now launch a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application to force the Metro to provide this information.

The DA has also now written to the speaker of parliament to convene a joint sitting to address the unfolding water crisis in NMB. Bulk water supply is the responsibility of the national government, and the residents demand answers as to how this was allowed to happen and why the rudderless ANC-led coalition government has put almost no plans in place to mitigate this humanitarian crisis.

Day Zero will prove to have disastrous consequences for the people of NMB, as very few alternative plans to provide water to at least a third of the city have been communicated.The DA will continue to do all we can to assist residents during this unprecedented drought, drawing from the best practice that our governments have already shown in drought disaster management.