27/01/2018 13:30 SAST | Updated 27/01/2018 13:30 SAST

Water Crisis: SA Human Rights Commission Concerned With 'Blame Shifting'

Recriminations and blame-shifting do not inspire confidence in our leaders and this confidence will be needed in the coming months, says SAHRC spokesperson.

Adrian de Kock/Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images
Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane addresses a crowd at the Joseph Stone Auditorium in Athlone on January 24, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa.

The South African Human Rights Commission has been monitoring the water crisis unfolding in the City of Cape Town, having received complaints from various individuals and organisations regarding the issue.

SAHRC spokesperson, Gail Smith, said the complaints expressed the concerns, which all Capetonians share.

"The commission wishes to reassure the people of Cape Town that it has, of its own initiative, commenced monitoring the situation and is engaged in a process of reviewing the plans and state of readiness of the City to implement such plans, the state of readiness of other relevant state institutions to provide support, and clarifying what that support will consist of," Smith said.

Smith said the commission had met with the relevant officials from the City of Cape Town on Friday and had been reassured that the measures being taken by the City were well considered and in the best interests of the city's residents.

Commission concerned with 'blame shifting'

She said the commission had noted, with concern, media reports which appeared to indicate tension between the different spheres of government regarding the water crisis.

"The commission will engage the parties in order to bring about greater co-operation and ensure that efforts are directed at the resolution of this crisis," she said.

Recriminations and blame-shifting do not inspire confidence in our leaders and this confidence will be needed in the coming months.

"The commission has fully familiarised itself with the situation on the ground through its own efforts and confirms that the situation is as dire as stated by the City, but that if all residents of the City commit to using 50 litres of water per person Day Zero can be postponed," she said.

Smith said the commission recognised that the situation changed daily, in line with consumption of water, and that as a consequence, the City's plans were being amended daily.

There is a plan in place

"Far from the situation which was reported following the press conference held by Mmusi Maimane in Athlone on Wednesday, the commission wishes to confirm that the City does indeed have a plan," she said.

"The main part of that plan, which requires the co-operation of all residents and businesses, is to make the current supply of water last for as long as possible - hence the water restrictions."

Smith said the most important part of the plan, not just at this time but going forward and taking into consideration the unpredictable impact of climate change on the weather and rainfall patterns, was that all residents embraced the new normal of water wise consumption.

"In this regard, the commission urges all residents of Cape Town to be water warriors and keep to the daily limit (and less), so that the water supply can be made to last until rain brings some relief," she said.

Conflicting information being distributed

Smith said the commission would continue to monitor the process, and would be releasing regular statements regarding the situation, as it had noted with concern the amount of conflicting information which was available on the issue.

"The commission will accordingly, in the exercise of its Constitutional mandate and as guardian of the Bill of Rights, not register complaints received in regard to this issue; but will instead focus on obtaining the information required by the people of Cape Town, providing support to government to ensure its state of readiness should Day Zero be reached," she said.

"Should Day Zero be reached, the commission will monitor the implementation of water distribution to ensure that it is equitable and that vulnerable groups are catered for."

She said the commission would continue to engage communities on their rights and responsibilities in this crisis, and urged the responsible and conservative use of water.

-- News24