Opinionista David Ka-Ndyalvan 24 October 2017

Township economy bears brunt of water cuts and failed DA leadership

The Cape Town water crisis smacks of a DA political manoeuvre for tenderpreneurs at the expense of the township economy.

Having had an opportunity to study at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and start my professional career in the same province, as a refugee from the Eastern Cape, if I were to borrow from Madam Zille’s twisted narrative, I have no doubt that the Cape Town water crisis has largely affected the development and growth of the township economy. For those who are not in touch, township economy refers to enterprises and markets based in the township. These enterprises are both formal and informal and are largely operating in areas with high levels of poverty, unemployment and low income.

My exposure to and better understanding of Cape Town give me a good idea of the nature of informal and formal entrepreneurial activities that are operating in the townships, which serve as the only source of livelihood for poor families. Therefore, it does not require a rocket scientist or DA research report to appreciate the devastating effects that might have been caused by the unprecedented water crisis to the viability and growth of township entrepreneurial ventures and by extension the lives of poor people.

Among others, the one business venture that springs to mind is a car wash. Its profit is largely dependent on the number of vehicles washed and this is neatly tied to the amount of water at the entrepreneur’s disposal. Needless to say, customer satisfaction, which is a key driver for sustainability, hinges on cleanliness which in turn is also dependent on the amount of water used for cleaning the vehicle.

Laundry businesses, creches and hair salons also come to mind when I think of entrepreneurial activities in Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Nyanga, Langa and others that must have been seriously affected by the DA’s water restrictions in the City of Cape Town. The level 5 water restrictions require a drastic reduction of water usage. A person who is familiar with clusters of township businesses can imagine the devastating ripple effects this must have caused to the development of this economy. Now, since this fateful day and unprecedented water crisis befell the mighty city, we have been hearing self-righteous DA leaders Mmusi Maimane and the Premier of the Western Cape Hellen Zille making lame excuses for the crisis. They need to be told that no amount of blaming it on drought and the ANC-led national government would exonerate the DA’s lacklustre, absent and indifferent leadership which led to the Cape water crisis.

In fact, one would be justified to believe that this is a self-inflicted crisis to create a gold mine for the DA’s preferred tenderpreneurs to milk government coffers through desalination tenders, among other things. Given the fact that the DA apparently ignored advice from their own experts who forewarned a decade ago that the city would experience a shortage of water, one would be excused to suspect that the water crisis could be a well calculated opportunity to allow the siphoning of taxpayers’ money by DA-aligned tenderpreneurs in return for expensive birthday cakes and kickbacks.

Thus it is a cheap PR exercise for Maimane and his Madam to act surprised or aghast at price fixing and collusion by companies which are bidding for tenders in the City to fix the crisis. They brought this on themselves, to the detriment of the township entrepreneurial activities and the lives of poor people. They need to deal with it and stop moaning while township business activities and livelihoods are taking serious strain.

If there is one lesson that Maimane should take away from this situation it is that talk is cheap and does not automatically translate into a responsive and caring government. As for Zille, her self-proclaimed efficient Western Cape administration has been put to the test. It is only fools and stooges who would care to listen to Maimane and Zille’s justification for their self-made spectacular failure which creates lucrative tenders for pals without due consideration for people who survive on the township economy.

If you disagree, dear reader, please tell me who stands to gain from exorbitant benefits from the Cape Water Crisis and who stands to suffer? Until then, the emotionally charged mumbo jumbo to defend the indefensible remains irrelevant and self-serving. DM

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