Category Archives: South African life

No relief in sight for Cape Town’s drought

Cape Town may have had the biggest storm in 30 years, but the winter rainfall has been far below averages.

2017 Winter rainfall in Cape Town

2017 Winter rainfall in Cape Town

What makes the situation more acute is the fact that there are no reserves — last year experienced similarly low rainfalls.  See the pink line.

Cape Town's rainfall for 2016 and 2017

Cape Town’s rainfall for 2016 and 2017

There are predictions that the current drought could last another two years.

The last time Cape Town experienced such low rainfall was in 1994 — when the city’s population was about 1½ million people less than it is today.  See the purple line.

Cape Town's rainfall in 1994

Cape Town’s rainfall in 1994

Water restrictions in Cape Town were intensified to level 4b from Saturday, 1 July 2017.

The City of Cape Town aimed to reduce collective water usage to below 500 million litres per day.  This requires everyone cuts back on their individual usage to less than 87 litres of water per person per day.

But water consumption increased to an average of 643 million litres per day last week, compared to 613 million litres per day in the previous one.

“The fact that we are still 143 million litres over our 500 million litres per day target means that those who are not reducing consumption are playing with everyone’s future in Cape Town,” the city said in a statement.

“Failure to reduce consumption spells disaster for everyone.”

Click here to explore the data on the interactive rainfall monitor developed by the Climate System Analysis Group (CSAG) at the University of Cape Town.

Tips for surviving the Western Cape’s water crisis

On June 1, the City of Cape Town (CoCT) follows in Eskom’s infamous electricity loadshedding footsteps and plans to introduce watershedding.  Poor planning and management means that Capetonians will be inconvenienced and suffer hardships, but what does it mean for the Province’s tourism industry — its economic lifeblood?

Water dropVisiting Cape Town — and many of the towns in the Province — for a dirty weekend or holiday could take on an entirely new connotation!  The biggest challenge is that no-one knows what to expect.  Will the water supply that allows a shower only last a few hours a day with a lifeline trickle at other times?  Which areas might have to rely on water tankers alone? Continue reading

If dams go dry – what it means for tourism in Cape Town

The latest forecast for Cape Town’s rainfall in June, July and August is that it will be 40% below annual averages.  And there are predictions that this drought could last at least two years.  Cape Town could become the first world city to simply run out of water due to bad management and too much wishful thinking.  And that’s something CapeTalk radio has been emphasizing for months.

Listening to the Kieno Kammies show on CapeTalk last week and the on-air spat about the water crisis between City of Cape Town (CoCT) Mayco member responsible for water, Xanthea Limberg and Tony Ehrenreich (Cosatu), one couldn’t help but feel that politicians put party politics and point-scoring above the interests of the city.  It was a spat that made a mockery of the mayor’s call the night before for everybody to work together!

From News24 — April 3, 2017:
“We will progressively intensify water restrictions and will reduce water pressure further to lower consumption, which could in cases lead to intermittent supply over larger areas of the metro at the same time,” said mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services, and energy, Xanthea Limberg.

Rainfall over parts of the city would not materially change the low levels. Should dams reach below 10% of storage levels, a “lifeline” water supply would be implemented.

This would involve minimal supply pressure, intermittent supply, and very stringent restrictions. People in areas with low water pressure might have to get their water from tankers.

The city council could also install water management devices for consumers who failed to limit consumption, even if they already paid the highest tariffs.

So CapeInfo asked Cllr Limburg: “Is the City able to guarantee that tourists who visit Cape Town over the next four months will be able to have showers at their accommodation establishments?  And what restrictions might tourists expect to encounter if rainfall over June, July & August is 40% below the annual average as predicted?”

There was no acknowledgement or reply to the email.    #Fail1

So I copied these questions to Dr Theuns Vivian, CoCT’s Head: Destination Development, since we had exchanged several emails (with no answers) on this subject and emailed, a little facetiously, “I must assume that your destination planning hasn’t taken the availability of water for tourists into consideration at all?”  Of course that got no reply either.    #Fail2

What is the City actually doing, apart from pleading for consumers to use less?
CoCT continues to accelerate its emergency water schemes in accordance with the disaster declaration. This includes:

  • Emergency drilling of boreholes into the Table Mountain Group Aquifer, with a yield of approximately 2 million litres per day. (Work on a pilot project will only start at the end of June.)
  • A small-scale desalination package plant, located along Cape Town’s north-western coastline, with a yield of approximately 2 million litres per day.
  • A R120m small-scale wastewater reuse plant at the Zandvliet water treatment works. The plant will produce 10 million litres of drinking water per day for the central and southern suburbs of Cape Town.
  • Intensifying the city’s pressure management and water demand management programmes.

If you tally up all CoCT’s new supplies (2ML/day aquifer, 2ML/day desalination and 10ML/day wastewater treatment) it comes to a total of 14 million litres of water a day.  Last month Cape Town used 720 million litres of water a day (above the 600 million litres a day target set by CoCT).

If the dams run dry of clean water, Capetonians and visitors to the city will have to get by on just 2% of the water they used last month… based on CoCT’s emergency plans.

For a Municipality that has bragged about its Climate Change credentials, this is scandalous.  Everyone knows that our world is getting hotter and dryer, year by year, and that droughts will be more frequent.  So they cannot blame unexpected droughts, only their bad planning and management.

CapeInfo spoke to John van Rooyen, TsogoSun’s operations manager for the Western Cape, Emma King, Communications manager at V&A Waterfront (V&AW), and Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism (CTT), to find out what steps have been taken by the tourism industry.

TsogoSun, V&AW and CTT have done everything that could be expected of them.  (Remember also, that V&AW came top in the world for Responsible Tourism and sustainable development last year!)

John had waited for the meeting with the mayor last Thursday, hoping for something new, before answering my questions. (See mayor Patricia de Lille’s speech to that meeting here.  It contains absolutely nothing new and is totally uninspired and uninspiring.  This sentence beggars belief: “We are currently reviewing our 30-year water plan to give greater consideration to climate change so that we can to see a shift [Sic] where Cape Town will become a water-sensitive city.”    #Fail3 )

John also spoke about the possibility of water in hotels only being available between something like 07h30-09:00 and again between 18h00-19h00.  But how will tourists react?  Will there be no hand-washing all day, no flushing of toilets?  Will accommodation establishments in low pressure areas have no running water at all, with sole reliance on water tankers?  Which are those areas?  No-one has any answers.

Emma met especially with the V&AW Operations Team after my first questions to find out if there was anything new.  V&AW can’t do anything until “the City announces Level 4 restrictions.  We can only develop a relevant strategy for a way forward when we know what those restrictions are.”

Business has done everything that is possible to do individually and through their  organisations.  CTT has been focusing on Responsible Tourism practices and programs since 2009.  “Some of our members have also incentivized visitors to reduce their water consumption in exchange for discounts or free drinks or dinner,” says Enver.  “Along with our JAMMs partners FEDHASA, SATSA and SAACI, we have held meetings with our combined members to discuss the impacts of water shortages in our businesses and felt that we needed more direction and action from local and provincial government in addressing this beyond the water level percentages.

There is a concern that nobody seems to have a clear plan to resolve or alleviate our concernsEnver Duminy, Cape Town Tourism CEO

“Water shortage will and does affect tourism and tourists, however a bigger concern for us is the impact it will have on our very survival as Capetonians irrespective of our sector or industry objectives.  There is a concern that nobody seems to have a clear plan to resolve or alleviate our concerns as citizens.  The only thing I know is that everyone is praying for more rain and more frequently.”  #NotInOurLifetime

Now I know Enver well enough to throw a real curveball of a question, one that many people are too terrified to even think about.  “If tourists planning a visit here in 3 months time asked you if you can guarantee that expectations will be met, or should the trip be delayed given the water crisis, what would your answer be?” I asked.

He answered… “Very good question — my job is always to recommend that people visit Cape Town and, similar to the electricity issues we faced a few years back, we will adapt as locals and business to the changing environment with a better understanding of how to respect and use our natural resources better. I would also ask if they have any ideas on how tourists could play a part in helping us solve our challenges.  And finally, tongue in cheek, ask them to bring some water along from their homes and we will give them discount on experiences.”

Well… providing clean water under pressure is a lot more difficult than buying a generator and plugging it into your building.

I don’t think that Councillor Limberg is up to the job and I do think that she should be replaced immediately.  CoCT needs to put all its cards on the table.  Now.

Eikestadnuus (Stellenbosch) May 11,2017: Only 5.1% left for drinking. Most towns in the Western Cape face a crisis. A few already rely on water tankers for their daily needs.

Eikestadnuus (Stellenbosch) — May 11, 2017:  “Only 5.1% left for drinking.”  Most towns in the Western Cape face a crisis. A few already rely on water tankers for their daily needs.  This photograph shows Theewaterskloof Dam, Cape Town’s main dam.  At the end of this week, weather forecasts expect 30 degree centigrade temperatures again in this area.

Postscript

The following email from the CoCT was received after the story was published.

From: Jyothi Naidoo
 Sent: Monday, 15 May 2017 11:18 AM
 To: capeinfo.com
 Subject: RE: Water restrictions & emergency plans

Hi Carl
 Your enquiry has come through to the Media Office for a response.
 I will get input from the relevant people and send through a response a bit later today.
 Kind regards
 Jyothi Naidoo
 Senior Media Liaison Officer
 Integrated Strategic Communication, Branding and Marketing Department
Sent: Wednesday, 17 May 2017 8:03 AM
 To: 'Jyothi Naidoo'
 Subject: RE: Water restrictions & emergency plans

Hi Jyothi
 I’m still waiting…
 Kind regards
 Carl

And we’re still waiting. There was no response whatsoever.

One can only assume that “the relevant people” fail abysmally at communicating.  And that’s bad news for an unfolding crisis.

 

Best News for Cape Town in a long time

The freeways to nowhere on Cape Town’s Foreshore have been a feature of the city for over four decades.  Redevelopment of 6 hectares of the Foreshore should start by the end of next year and will see a big reduction in the traffic congestion where the N1 Freeway enters the city and meets the intersections to the CBD, V&A Waterfront and the Atlantic suburbs.

The introduction of a significant amount of affordable housing in the CBD will also see Cape Town redress its apartheid legacy.

10 statistics that will leave the rest of South Africa green with envy

Buried in Premier Helen Zille’s state of the province speech‚ delivered on Friday in the Western Cape legislature‚ were 10 statistics that will leave the rest of South Africa green with envy.

  1. Unemployment is 13.8 percentage points lower than the national average‚ and rural unemployment (14%) is the lowest since records began.
  2. 56% of mortgage bonds registered by Gauteng residents in the last year were for properties in the Western Cape.
  3. 75% of South Africa’s venture capital deals are done in the Western Cape‚ primarily involving tech start-ups.
  4. International tourist arrivals are up 16% in the past year.
  5. The backlog in issuing title deeds to housing subsidy beneficiaries is 28% — less than half the national figure of 59%.
  6. 234 Wi-Fi hotspots will be added to the existing 150 by the end of the year. They offer 250MB of free data per month‚ then charge R45 for an additional 5GB.
  7. Internet pages opened at Western Cape schools grew from 375 million in June 2015 to 3.8 billion in January 2017.
  8. The value of building plans approved increased by 27% in 2015‚ compared with a 6% decline nationally.
  9. Employment in farming and agricultural processing has increased by 40% in the last two years.
  10. 97% of fires are brought under control within an hour of being reported.

From: http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/2017/02/18/10-amazing-stats-thatll-make-you-wish-you-lived-in-the-fairest-cape

Transformation: “education levels provide the transformation ceiling”

Finally some common sense!  The following comes from the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) and emphasizes that education and skills training needs to be addressed before even more meaningful transformation can take place.  And government’s track record for education is abysmal.  So, until government gets it act together on education, everything else is wishful thinking.
Gwen Ngwenya, the IRR’s Chief Operating Officer

Gwen Ngwenya, the IRR’s Chief Operating Officer

The IRR’s transformation audit, in its January issue of Fast Facts, reveals that racial transformation of the South African workplace, asset ownership and state institutions has been significant and continues to improve.

The Commission for Employment Equity’s data shows that the proportion of top managers who are black has increased from 12.7% in 2000 to 27.6% in 2015, or by 117.3%. The proportion of senior managers who are black has increased to 38.8% in 2015.

Stock market ownership data reveals that levels of black African ownership increased from 14.9% in 2000 to 23% in 2013. White ownership levels have fallen by more than half to a level below that of black Africans, from 71.4% in 2000 to 22% in 2013.

Of those who have a home and have it fully paid off 84.1% are African and 7.4% are white. The extent of transformation in home ownership data is largely due to black Africans who have received free or subsidised housing from the State.

In terms of judges of the superior courts, 98.2% of judges were white in 1994. As of 2016, 64.5% are black (African, Coloured, Indian/Asian).

Despite the successes, those who advocate for an acceleration of racial transformation point out that 80.7% of all people in the country are black African. This figure is used as the benchmark to which proponents of racial ‘representivity’ suggest South Africa should aspire. Transformation indicators, e.g. levels of asset ownership and employment in management, if benchmarked against that percentage fall dramatically short.

However, the IRR argues that racial transformation should be benchmarked against the economically active and qualified population rather than the total population of black Africans. It is the economically active and highly qualified cohort who are able to be absorbed into skilled employment and higher echelons of management and leadership.

If we look at these numbers, according to the IRR, black African people account for 77.7% of the economically active population and for 70.7% of the population with a matric qualification. The numbers come down even further when it comes to the population with a post-school qualification.

Here, black Africans account for 51.4% of all people with a post-school qualification. This latter figure is seldom cited in the racial transformation debate even though it is a more realistic benchmark against which employment equity indicators should be judged.

Just 26% of black African children (who sat for the mathematics exam in 2015) obtained 40% or above. The figure for white children is 84.9%. It is not clear how continuing to enforce ever more stringent racial equity and other targets in the economy will overcome the problem of poorly performing schools.

If transformation can be said to be ‘held back’, that would be primarily because of failures in education. According to Gwen Ngwenya, the IRR’s Chief Operating Officer, “education levels provide the transformation ceiling.”

Stricter demographic targets in the absence of sufficient advances in education will become a policy that will strangle South Africa’s economic growth rate. Transformation policy for employers must continue to be informed by the available skilled population and not the total demographic distribution of racial groups.

This report on transformation forms the first of a three-part release ahead of the 2017 State of the Nation Address. The three reports from the IRR will cover transformation, race relations and a report on the economic silver lining. 

The Road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions

I was asked to join the board of directors of the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve (CWBR)  in July 2014.

An honour indeed; or so I thought.  This area encompasses one of the most beautiful regions anywhere in the world.  It embraces more opportunities than challenges.  It has — by virtue of its inhabitants, landowners and institutions — access to more brains, entrepreneurial spirit, drive and personal wealth than you’ll find almost anywhere in the world.

CWBR logo

I resigned from the board in August 2015, believing that I could not continue being part of a board of directors that was not providing any competent direction and oversight, and was not, in my opinion, meeting its legal responsibilities.

In my 13 months as a director, we never saw a single financial statement, even of the most rudimentary kind.  In January 2015, when management shortcomings became critical (because an AGM was scheduled for May 2015) a bookkeeper was appointed to prepare the books.  By August 2015, when I left, there was still nothing to show and AGMs planned for December 2015 and January 2016 never materialised, with difficulties in receiving an audit cited for the delays.  As far as I know, the CWBR Company received between R650,000 and R1 million in local government funding during 2015 and an unspecified amount from private & foreign donors.

Just before I joined the board, the CWBR had won six Green Flag awards from provincial premier Helen Zille.  When I was helping finalise the previous year’s Annual Report for publication, I needed to understand the projects the Biosphere was engaged in.  (The 2013/14 Annual Report was never published — Wessel Rabbets, the director responsible for the Company’s finances and administration, said it related to a period before he became a director and was therefore not interested in it.)

It became apparent to me that several of the Biosphere’s projects were not in fact projects at all, but were little more than a discussion or two over drinks.  They were certainly good ideas, but certainly not projects, and as such devalued the whole Green Flag project — a potential embarrassment.

This started a long debate on what is and what is not a project.  Eventually it was agreed that every Biosphere project needed to have its own business plan, with key performance indicators, and an income/expenditure budget that was approved by the board.

In my 13 months, the board never approved a single business plan, and it was not for want of asking.

When I joined the board, I also asked what the Company’s core business was.

Since it has no assets, no legislated authority and very few resources, surely the focus should be to inform, inspire and educate?  So surely its primary focus must be as a  marketing company?  I put this to the chairman who said he didn’t have time to respond and forwarded it to a CapeNature official.

This sort of proposition doesn’t go down well with people who see themselves as conservationists!

Eventually the board agreed to hold a Strategic Planning session — in December 2014.  It was facilitated by Wessel Rabbets, the director responsible for the Company’s finances and administration.  The following was agreed to by the board:

Vision
To innovatively achieve a balance between human development and nature in the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve.

Mission
To achieve our vision by:

  • Starting Conversations;
  • Influencing Decision Makers;
  • Inspire, Inform & Educate Open Society; and
  • Promoting Best Practice.

The Strategic Plan was never completed (during my tenure) but there was enough in it to motivate for the appointment of a Marketing/Communications/Fundraising/Membership manager to support Mark Heistein, the CEO and only person on the payroll (after Heidi Muller resigned from the board and as a marketing consultant).

Since the chairman felt that a secretary could fulfill these functions, I was asked to prepare a job description, which I did.  The only director to respond felt that this would be usurping the CEO’s role.

It was apparent that the other directors didn’t have a clue about the resources the company needed, which was completely unfair on the CEO.  Just too much was being expected of him.  From before I even joined the board and repeatedly since, Mark  made it clear that he knows nothing about marketing and his formal communication skills are lacking.

My patience with Wessel Rabbets snapped in the middle of 2015.  Apart from rarely attending board meetings, he had at the outset promised clean and effective administration and financial management — which I don’t believe he delivered on.  I believe he should have been replaced, a view the chairman and CEO were well aware of.

There were requests from one creditor for payment which dragged on for almost a year.  Another, after asking for goods purchased to be returned, resorted to appealing to a related organisation asking them to pay CWBR’s bill.  It was only after appealing to the chairman that they did get paid, and only after responses from the CEO saying that the matter “had been sorted”, when it clearly had not been.

In January 2016 when I started putting down notes for this story, I went to see if there was any new “News” on CWBR’s website.  It was offline for non-payment of the annual domain registration fee.  The domain (capewinelandsbiosphere.co.za) was terminated at the end of February and, as of the morning of March 2, is available to anybody on a first-come first-served basis!

I hope they get their website sorted out soon so they can publish their 2014/15 Annual Report and financial statements.

In the Chairman’s Report of the incomplete 2014/15 Annual Report that I saw in May 2015, there was an implied criticism of my marketing portfolio: “Very little of our achievements has reached the news media.”  The fact is that CWBR achieved very little during the 2014/15 financial year.

And when around 6,000 trees were planted in the following financial year outside Stellenbosch, it was impossible to plan any PR around the event.  Even the chairman expressed dismay that he hadn’t been asked to speak at a function to announce the event.

Do the Winelands Biosphere’s achievements pass the “So what” test when so many achievements elsewhere are taking place?

The Cape Wine Auction, held for the second time in 2016, raises funds for education in the winelands.  In 2015 it raised R10 million; in 2016 it was R15 million.

At Platbos Forest Reserve, Africa’s Southernmost Forest near Gansbaai, you’ll find an indigenous forest with trees that are over 1000 years old.  Platbos is not reliant on any local government funding but lots of individual donors and volunteers: they’ve planted 30,204 new trees as of February 2016!

At Boschendal Estate, which is under new ownership, 120,000 fruit trees were planted last year and by July 2017 they will have planted 450,000 new trees!

I was asked to tackle three tasks as a paid consultant after I resigned.  One was cancelled half way through and CWBR was billed for costs to that point.  One, a business plan, was completed and submitted, and paid for.  When I asked some time later whether they were proceeding with it, I was flabbergasted to be told by the chairman that it was not what they wanted.  Surely one engages with someone to make sure you get what you paid for?  I had followed the CEO’s brief.  Will CWBR’s 2015/16 audit show these items as fruitless and wasteful expenditure?

*****

So what’s the point of this story?  One goes through all sorts of experiences in life and if one doesn’t learn from them, they will have been little more than a waste of time.

It’s clear in my mind that the CWBR company simply doesn’t work.  So I hope this story will stir debate.

When I asked “Who owns the CWBR company?” I was told that the directors do.  Does this mean that they are answerable only to themselves?  Surely this needs to be reviewed?

NGOs like the CWBR cannot be an old boys’ club or mutual admiration society.  They need to have a far wider constituency.  Local government funding should only kick in after the company has (say) 500 or 1000 members, preferably paid-up and contributing to the organisation’s costs.  They should be member-based organisations where members have a sense of ownership and benefit.

Paid-up members will hold the company more accountable and will introduce a far better dynamic when it comes to appointing directors.  At present, the CEO’s suggestions for new board members are usually endorsed by the board.  Strengthening the board must be a priority.

Since the CWBR started receiving provincial government funding in the middle of 2015, more onerous reporting has been required by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEADP) (which oversees biosphere reserves in the Western Cape).  Better reporting is a good thing, but mindless bureaucratic formats — where meetings attended count more than achievements — will chase any competent director away.  Bureaucracy trumps Vision at the DEADP as far as biosphere reserves are concerned.