Political blame game erupts over how two Western Cape towns ran dry
Despite assurances that the water crisis in the Matzikama Municipality was not ‘political’, insults were traded in the Western Cape legislature about who was responsible for the situation that has crippled households and businesses.
A mini-debate in the Western Cape legislature on Thursday about the water crisis in the Matzikama Municipality turned into a political blame game between the DA and the ANC.
This week, Daily Maverick reported on the towns of Vredendal and Vanrhynsdorp being left without water for seven days. At the time of the crisis, Vanrhynsdorp was at its peak of flower season which attracts many tourists to the area.
Read more in Daily Maverick: How two Western Cape towns ran dry – Coke bottles, missing director, ageing canals, broken pipes
Thursday’s mini-debate was initiated by the ANC’s Patrick Marran from questions to the DA’s Anton Bredell, MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning.
Marran asked what had led to the water crisis and what interventions Bredell had put in place. Bredell cited an emergency phase to repair the aged pump station and a project to replace an old asbestos pipeline and construct a new pump.
In his response to Bredell, Marran said: “The crisis in Matzikama was not about bulk water, it was about the inability of the DA-run municipality and province to simply maintain water infrastructure.”
The municipality is run by a DA/Freedom Front Plus coalition following a by-election in July 2022.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Boks ticked – spring comes early for the DA in Vanrhynsdorp thanks to PA, GOOD and FF+ voters
Marran continued: “What happened in Matzikama is water apartheid… The water eventually came for some, those in the dorp, and who are better off.”
He said those who were poor and working class, “Coloured and African, had to suffer extra days without water”.
Ferlon Christians of the ACDP asked Bredell what he was doing to hold people accountable.
“There must be an administration that must be held responsible for the shortage of water. I want to know, are those officials going to account and are they going to be brought to book?” said Christians.
The EFF’s Moses Thembile Klaas said the water crisis was an “infringement” of people’s constitutional rights. He claimed the DA “placed incompetent individuals” in positions of power who could not create proper infrastructure and could not create municipal water plans.
He asked Bredell, “What was the municipality doing to ensure that people received adequate drinking water?”
In response to all the questions, Bredell said it always astonished him “how the ANC will stand up in this House and will try to badmouth the DA when their national government is so corrupt and they steal everything from the poorest of the poor”.
He said the issue of sabotage was the biggest of all that was being dealt with. Bredell said police and the Hawks were brought in to investigate.
“I’m not going to pull that into a political discussion, but I’m really worried because there is definitely sabotage,” said Bredell.
The province had sent five engineers to the municipality. “That’s how serious this is… we want to solve this as soon as possible.”
Bredell said DA municipalities were in the process of implementing water management plans throughout the province, but that ANC-led municipalities in the Western Cape would not be implementing these plans because they did not care for the poor.
“They don’t care about the poor because they know if the poor suffer, they will vote for them for the shameless R350 grant. They want to keep people captured so they can suck the votes out of them,” said Bredell.
“This government is doing everything possible when we take over from the ANC to rectify the neglect of infrastructure. The ANC governed Matzikama – they’ve never spent a cent on infrastructure – that’s why the people sit with asbestos pipes,” he continued.
He added: “We don’t play politics with this. We’re there to serve the people… the people have a right to a dignified life. To have a dignified life, you need to have water and we will provide that water.”
Farming activist Billy Claasen, of the Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation, blamed the water crisis on the municipality. On 30 August, he posted on Facebook that the situation was the fault of not only the local administration, but also councillors.
Claasen said all the councillors “should resign or be fired”. DM