Eastern Cape declares drought disaster

HELP ON WAY: The Adelaide Dam, which has long since run out of water. Tuesday’s declaration of a drought disaster in the province should facilitate the allocation of emergency relief funding from the national government
HELP ON WAY: The Adelaide Dam, which has long since run out of water. Tuesday’s declaration of a drought disaster in the province should facilitate the allocation of emergency relief funding from the national government
Image: Fredlin Adriaan

The Eastern Cape has been declared a drought disaster area.

The announcement on Tuesday by the premier, Oscar Mabuyane, will galvanise much-needed relief funding from the national government.

It follows repeated calls from hard-pressed farmers and the DA for the declaration to be made.

The premier’s spokesperson Mvusi Sicwetsha said last week that the provincial government had taken a resolution on October 7 to make the declaration and that it was in the process of gazetting it.

On Tuesday, the long-awaited declaration was gazetted, stating that the premier, “acting in terms of the Disaster Management Act and after consultation with other members of the executive council, hereby declares a provincial state of disaster in the province of the Eastern Cape due to the drought”.

DA Midlands constituency leader and member of the provincial legislature Retief Odendaal said his party welcomed the declaration.

“We will now actively engage with the premier to secure drought relief funding for the province from the national government.

“The province cannot continue to delay acting while livestock are dying, and municipalities are running out of water.

“We need immediate action to save our rural economy.”

The DA had already called for a special sitting of the portfolio committee on rural development and agrarian reform to review the department’s budget and reallocate funding for drought aid, he said.

“We will now redouble our efforts to free up in excess of R50m in noncore expenditure that has been identified in the department’s budget, which could immediately be redirected to assist farmers in need.

“This R50m is  a drop in the ocean in the face of the drought crisis our province is experiencing, but it is substantially better than the paltry R3.2m that has been made available by the department for drought relief to date.”

Meanwhile, cellphone network giant Vodacom has announced a R3.5m donation towards the Eastern Cape government’s drought-relief efforts.

Vodacom said on Tuesday its commitment followed talks between senior executives of the company and Mabuyane.

Vodacom’s chief officer for corporate affairs, Takalani Netshitenzhe, said: “In our engagements with premier Mabuyane, we expressed a desire to partner with the Eastern Cape government in tackling the current challenges in the water sector.

“As a long-standing partner of government, we prepared a package of interventions and agreed on various streams of collaboration, including immediate humanitarian assistance.

“It is necessary to drive transformational and systematic change towards sustainable development, thus partnerships are a valuable tool to do this in a more responsible, inclusive and sustainable [way],” Netshitenzhe said.

Mabuyane last week encouraged the private sector to get on board and partner with the government to help with its drought-relief efforts.

“For us as government, dealing with this drought is a priority, hence we have been continuing to provide water, rainwater tanks, animal feed to households and farmers in the province from 2015 when we first experienced drought,” the premier said.

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