The Eastern Cape will officially be declared a national disaster area by March 15.
The declaration will see different national and provincial government departments working together to ensure farmers receive the necessary relief while groundwater exploration continues for water to be used by residents.
The scheduled declaration by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Des van Rooyen follows a reclassification of the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Northern Cape as national disaster areas on Tuesday last week.
Cogta spokesman Legadima Leso said consultation aimed at working on a programme of action between various government departments was under way.
The three provinces also submitted requests for funding, with the Eastern Cape asking for R7.7-billion for drought alleviation.
Leso said Van Rooyen was considering the requests from the three provinces and an announcement would be made once it had been decided how much each province would receive.
The head of Parliament’s Water and Sanitation Committee wants a straight answer to the question on every Capetonians’ lips – will day zero arrive?
Acting chairperson Patrick Chauke says this must be known by the end of Wednesday’s sitting which includes ministers, representatives from the Western Cape and Eastern Cape governments and Agri-SA.
Day zero is currently forecast for 11 May, which is almost a month later than the forecast of 16 April last week.
Chauke says clarity is needed around the prospect of day zero in Cape Town.
Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane says the water crisis stems from resources being overused in a short space of time without the control and management of demand.
“We can avoid that possibility if we manage the demand by adhering to the restrictions and ensuring that they apply particularly to the big water users.”
Emaciated cattle‚ barren land and a livelihood slowly crumbling to dust. This is the reality faced every morning by Wilhelm Stemmet.
He has joined the ranks of farmers whose cries for help ring out from far and wide as they try to survive in the midst of a debilitating drought. The rooibos and cattle farmer from Vanrhynsdorp in the Western Cape is hoping for rain‚ but casts his eyes upwards to blue skies.
Stemmet described his daily routine‚ waking up to barren farm land‚ as an image that he has been forced to become accustomed to. Dusty winds like he has never experienced‚ emaciated animals and farm workers trying to stretch out whatever work there is available.
“I am 55-years-old and I have never experienced a drought like this. Everything on the farm is going to ruins‚” he told TimesLIVE.
Stemmet cannot help but get emotional when he speaks of the financial burden of the drought.
“It is a lot of stress on one person because everyone looks to you to for an answer – the animals‚ your workers‚ your family. But I will remain hopeful that the rains will come anytime soon. The farm workers we have supported us very well.”
During the interview‚ he apologises profusely for allowing his emotions get the better of him.
“It weighs heavily on all of us and especially me as the provider. I am thankful for all the help that we do get. We still have drinking water which does not make the situation for us as dire. It would be a very sad day when we don’t have drinking water‚” he said.
But this doesn’t help his crops.
“Rooibos tea is dependent on rains. We would normally get 250 mm of rain but the past year we only got 30 mm of rain. There is no growth. With the rooibos tea‚ you get a quarter of your normal harvest. My rooibos business is being threatened. I can see it with my harvest that I don’t get the quantities I got in previous years. Most farmers have either sold or slaughtered their livestock. I have had to decrease my livestock numbers.”
It’s a feeling anyone who has grown up on a farm knows well: the excruciating helplessness of looking out over your parched veld or crops and watching rain fall from heavy clouds in the distance, on another family’s farm.
Almost as painful is the hopelessness you are left with after hearing the rumble of thunder, and seeing clouds gather over your farm, only for them to be blown away before they could release a single drop of water.
I wish I knew exactly what to say to encourage those farmers in South Africa who are facing a third consecutive failed harvest, who have had to choose which of their crops they will save, and which they will have to watch wither away, and those who have no idea where the feed, or the money to feed their animals, will come from this year.
When I think back to my childhood spent on my parents’ KZN farm, my memories of rain are mostly happy.
Rain meant that we would get pancakes for lunch; thunder meant we would be without electricity and a phone for at least 24 hours or even longer. Rain would also be accompanied by a feeling of peace and stillness.
Livestock farmers in the Northern Cape had thus far reduced their livestock numbers by more than 30% as a result of the persisting drought, according to Henk van Wyk, the president of Agri Northern Cape.
Van Wyk said the total herd reduction was difficult to quantify, but that the number of farmers who had lost their entire herds was dramatically escalating.
“I know of many producers who were left with no choice but to send all the sheep they [managed] to keep alive to feedlots,” he said.
Van Wyk said that farming conditions between Carnavon and Vosburg were dire, as a result of insufficient rain and high temperatures over the past four years.
Conditions in the Brandvlei, Loeriesfontein, Pofadder and Granaatkolk regions were equally dismal.