Debate by Hon. Jacques Smalle on the drought affecting Limpopo

The following debate was  delivered by Jacques Smalle DA MPL  to the Limpopo Provincial Legislature on 17 November 2015.

It took this province a long time to get into drought and it won’t take one overnight event to take us out.

For it was in this very august house that the DA urged the Hon.MEC of Agriculture to initiate relief to the already burdened agricultural sector of this province in September.

Instead of Hon. Matshoge rising to the occasion and providing a political solution, she opted for the easy path of ‘explaining away’ the problem arguing that the weather bureau has not declared Limpopo a drought stricken area.

It is no wonder that the AG PFMA of 2014/15 believes that this department severely lacks in competency with a management leadership that is slow to respond to crisis.

Unfortunately, the drought that now cripples many parts of this province was already forewarned by weather services as early as February.

If anything this drought has highlighted two major issues.

First, the poor state of water and sanitation infrastructure as well as the lack of capacity to maintain this by municipalities throughout the province.

Second, the audacity the leadership of Limpopo has in publicising R3 million aid to a problem they created in the first place.

While the MEC of COGHSTA spends monies in court defending municipal demarcation decisions, more than R 540million in MIG grants was under spent and lost to Treasury when less than 20% of Limpopo households have piped water.

While millions are paid out to suspended municipal officials under investigation, Limpopo is in the top ten with 3 municipalities which have the highest vacancy rates in water management departments.

While some Limpopo municipalities spend billions on consultants they still have a distribution loss of nearly 50% which cost the country R11bn a year.

The Hon. Ngwenya has started this debate on the wrong foot.

It is not fair that government throws money at the problem while the people have to make the necessary life adjustments.

We urge our leadership to avoid re-inventing the wheel at the expense of the lives of our people.

We have a lot to learn from Botswana which successfully handled a drought of far epic proportions than our own in 1982.

Very briefly,  the drought relief was targeted at the rural poor and other vulnerable groups to minimize income disparities during and after the drought;

The government also created an Inter-Ministerial Drought Committee (IMDC) which develop and coordinate various  plans which prevent drought instead of reacting to it.

The DA believes that the only way to be excellent at extraordinary times is to be brilliant in ordinary times.

There are 5 things that this government can do today to change this dire situation:

  1. Prioritize capacitating municipalities and the department of Water itself.

The province is not just running short of water, it is running short of critical water engineers and technicians.

  1. The executive leadership of Limpopo needs to start heeding to the early warning signs and further invest in long term development planning.
  2. The MEC of COGHSTA in particular needs to ensure that municipalities have water use efficiency draft plans.

These plans should include a pipeline replacement programmes, pressure-reducing valve and leak-detecting technology;

  1. Commit to spending every cent of the MIG grants allocated, and ensure 7% is ring-fenced to alleviate the backlog of maintenance of infrastructure
  2. To gazette the provincial disaster declaration .

– Government needs to have a quicker response time to natural disasters especially in poor / rural communities.

-Areas such as Hoedspruit ,Sekhukhune, Elim and Levubu in Makhado have been hit by hailstorms already.

Let’s ensure that as many resources are pumped into assisting the most vulnerable of communities as well as farmers from the recurring extreme weather conditions we are currently experiencing as a province.

 

The 2012 National State of Water Resources Report shows that Climate change can potentially lead to changes in the frequency, intensity, length, timing and spatial coverage of extreme events.

Climate change is inevitable. Now is not the time for assessments and expensive workshops, but one which requires that we all roll our sleeves and urgently intervene.