Rory Britt ’18

Hello there, I am Rory Britt, and this is a bit of a global segment where I pick a place and talk about an issue there that matters a lot. I just recently wrapped up my first semester English class, Postcolonial Literature with Dr. Matlin. In it, we focused heavily on South Africa in both an Apartheid and post-Apartheid era, especially around Cape Town, South Africa.

Cape Town is an interesting place with an interesting history. It is on the coast of the Horn of Africa in a beautiful spit of land. In parts, it is one of the most expensive places in the world to live; however, in others, it is little better than a slum city. Originally settled as a city to cater to whites under Apartheid, it has since undergone a great deal of change and political progress. Still, though, there is a great imbalance in wealth, dividing the city into two parts. One issue though has led to a great unification among the people of Cape Town.

The Government has officially moved the date of “Day Zero” up from April 22nd to April 12th. When Day Zero hits in less than three months, Cape Town will no longer have any access to water. The drought comes from the fact that the Theewaterskloof Dam, a key source of water to Cape Town, is down to less than 20% of its normal water capacity. This is a huge issue for the city of 4 million because it will lose water right as its extremely hot summer period is starting. This could threaten not only its huge tourism industry but also the millions of South Africans living around the city who live in housing without air-conditioning. To combat the issue, the mayor of Cape Town has declared that every person is only entitled to 50 liters (13 gallons) of water per day. Furthermore, the government has started a significant water-recycling campaign in which they have begun to recapture and reuse as much water as possible. Unfortunately, this has led to many people complaining about the quality of the water and especially how it is affecting the stomachs of young children. As for how the measures will affect the level of drought, experts are unsure, but if Cape Town does not solve the issue soon, it could face a humanitarian crisis.

When its second biggest city in a country begins to see massive water-containment issues, I think that it raises the question of how well the government can control its own borders. This belief is backed up by the fact that the national government has done very little to aid the people of Cape Town, and the burden has largely fallen to the local governments. Unfortunately, the local government, and especially the mayor’s office, have stated that they are “waiting for word from the President”, so they are taking very little action. This lack of action has greatly exacerbated the situation and has fed now-rampant corruption. An investigation by The Independent found that the responses from four and five-star hotels listed everything from the “situation is “critical” and that visitors are encouraged to refrain from flushing the toilet, to being assured: ‘The water situation will not affect your experience at all”. This variation in response has largely stemmed from reports that luxury destinations have been caught paying off government water inspectors to not report them for using egregious amounts of water. This has shaken confidence in the elected government who appointed these people because these water inspectors have largely not been punished for lying on the job, possibly signaling that those in the judicial system are protecting the law-breakers for money. All in all, this water issue will likely only get worse, and if it is not fixed, a humanitarian crisis could be possible.

Perhaps, instead of ignoring the issue, we should all take note of this not as an outlier, but instead as a warning about our current water policies here in America.