Water crisis emerges in Kalahari – DA calls for intervention

Andrew Louw, MPL

DA Provincial Leader

A water crisis in the area surrounding the Witsand Nature Reserve has already left eight farms in the Kalahari region without water, directly threatening the livelihood of the affected farmers and the survival of their stock.

The problem has by and large come about due to poor management by the Northern Cape Department of Environment and Conservation of the Witsand Nature Reserve, on which the underground water sources that feed the surrounding farms are situated. A resultant lack of infrastructure maintenance of this water system, as well as a dire lack of liaison between the department and the affected farmers, is also responsible.

A total of 13 farms and eight owners are dependent on two underground water sources on Witsand for the upkeep of their households and stock. Without this water, they would not be able to live off the land and their farming initiatives would be non-existent. They have been making use of these water sources for years already and their use of this water was officiated in an agreement with the department sometime between 1993 and 1994, when the Witsand farm was transformed into a nature reserve.

While the agreement specifies the quantity of water which is to be provided to each farm, the Witsand water system is not meeting these requirements due to inefficient upkeep of the relevant infrastructure, including the pumps and the reservoir. The problem has escalated to such an extent that there are times when no water is supplied at all. This situation is further aggravated by the fact that the department has become a regular defaulter in terms of not paying its electricity account. This in turn results in Eskom cutting off their power, which inhibits water from being pumped to the farms. In effect, eight farms in the Kalahari region are currently without water.

The department meanwhile has apparently cited ongoing land claims at Witsand, coupled with their failure to budget for infrastructure maintenance at Witsand, as an excuse for them not doing anything about the problem. The Democratic Alliance, however, is of the view that they are simply shirking their responsibility. Their inaction is completely unacceptable and can in simple terms be attributed to them having the wrong people in managerial positions.

The survival of 13 farms, a number of households and farm workers, as well as  thousands of animals is at stake – surely this warrants an urgent intervention by our provincial government!

The Democratic Alliance will request relative departments, including the Office of the Premier, as well as the Departments of Environment and Conservation, and Agriculture, to urgently intervene.  If provincial government doesn’t act now, the Northern Cape will be faced with the loss of more stock animals.  This, shortly after inaction by the provincial agriculture department already contributed to the loss of cattle in the John Taole Gaetsewe district as a result of the ongoing drought situation.