The Government says it “stands ready” to provide financial assistance for the “severe” drought that was affecting large parts of the country. Indeed, a provisional allocation of R6 billion has been set aside in 2018/19 for several purposes, including drought relief and to augment public infrastructure investment.
The Finance Minister said the drought was placing “extreme strain on the supply of water to nearly four million people in the City of Cape Town”. Some smaller towns in the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape – including the Nelson Mandela Bay municipal area – and the Western Cape were also facing water shortages.
“South Africa is a water scarce country, and our climate is changing in ways that make rainfall patterns far less predictable than in the past,” said Malusi Gigaba, the Finance Minister.
“Government is concerned by the potential job losses in vulnerable farming communities as a result of the drought. We are, therefore, exploring the option of partially mitigating losses by temporarily increasing intake in the Working for Water programme,” he said.
Allocation for drought response funds for water infrastructure projects and EPWP would be made in the adjustment budget in October, he reported.
To provide short-term assistance, Gigaba reported that this budget – which could be his first and last main budget delivery – included disaster relief grants for provinces and municipalities worth R473 million in 2018/19. “Other conditional grants can also be reprioritized to respond to disasters if necessary,” he reported.
“We need to conserve water,” said the minister. “We have among the highest levels of per capita daily domestic water consumption levels in the world, but also some of the highest levels of inequality in reliable access to water.”
“National government will continue to work with municipalities to respond effectively to the water crisis,” he said.