MEDIA STATEMENT – THE SOUTH AFRICAN INSTITUTION OF CIVIL ENGINEERING
5 February 2018
Civil engineers from the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) and the South African Academy of Engineering (SAAE) met with the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, and her advisory team, to offer support and advice to address the challenges posed by the drought in the Western Cape. This followed from meetings with the City of Cape Town and the Premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille. The SAICE/SAAE team comprised six civil engineers with more than 200 years of expertise in the water engineering space, including water resources management, planning, infrastructure design, construction and academia.
The Minister expressed her gratitude for the goodwill and offer of support. She agreed with the team that all parties need to focus on dealing with the challenges in a collaborative and coherent fashion, and that there was an urgent need to bring calm to the situation. They needed to stop using the crisis to score political points as this was causing confusion. Some key outcomes of the meeting are as follows:
- The urgency of the situation requires politicians to set aside political differences and work together in contending with the challenges. It is necessary for the mandates and roles of the various sectors of Government to be clearly defined and aligned. The public needs to be reassured that the sectors of Government are engaging and that, even though the situation is serious, it is under control;
- Starting immediately, the Western Cape Disaster Management Centre will be the focus centre for action and coordination. To support this, the Department of Water and Sanitation will also establish an emergency team in the Western Cape, led by a Deputy Director General;
- The SAICE/SAAE team believe that the plans put in place by the City of Cape Town to avoid Day Zero are sound, and that they would enable the City to cope should it be necessary to cut household supplies on the so-called Day Zero. This should not be necessary in the short-term, if all water users cooperate by reducing their consumption in line with the targets set by DW&S and the City. Domestic users, businesses, industries and the agricultural sector should obey the restrictions imposed;
- The SAICE/SAAE team also noted progress made by the City with plans to augment water supply. It emphasised the need to ensure that such plans were feasible and cost-effective and offered support to the City’s engineers and technicians for their implementation. It highlighted the fact that the period ahead would be critical and that important decisions on future restrictions and interventions would have to be taken in October 2018, at the end of the region’s rainy season;
- The Minister agreed that the politicians in all spheres should seek out and listen to the voice of technical professionals who have done excellent work to date, and to afford them space to do their work. She called for the engineering professionals to continue providing technically sound and credible support to the politicians and to hold politicians accountable for their performance in a positive way;
- The technical, civil engineering capacity of DW&S and other spheres of government in general, were also discussed. A particular need was to identify people who could provide engineering and project management support to current interventions. Restoration of technical capacity for management, operation and maintenance is a priority;
- The Minister recognised that while the short-term issues were being tackled, the long-term imperatives should also be considered. She agreed that the functions of water resources planning and operational analysis needed to be strengthened. The drought in the Western Cape offered an opportunity to learn from past mistakes. It showed the need for improved planning and modelling, and for early consultation to ensure that water users and other stakeholders are able to participate in these processes.
South Africans were coming together to address the water challenges faced in the Western Cape. The overall message was that the engineering community had a critical role to play in improving capacity of the public service in all spheres of government. SAICE and SAAE are committed to contribute to this process.
- Standing (L to R) Musa Furumele PrEng, Mike Muller PrEng, former DG of DW&S, Manglin Pillay PrEng (SAICE CEO)
Seated Errol Kerst PrEng (SAICE President), Nomvula Mokonyane (Minister, DW&S), Trevor Balzer PrEng (DDG, DW&S)
- Standing (L to R) Mike Muller PrEng, Manglin Pillay PrEng, Musa Furumele PrEng, Mike Killick PrEng, Mike Shand PrEng, Kevin Wall PrEng
Seated Gisella Kaiser PrEng (City of Cape Town), Helen Zille (Premier, Western Cape) and Peter Flower PrEng (City of Cape Town)
HOD PR & Communications
SAICE Media Liaison