In the harsh and often unpredictable vagaries of the African climate, guaranteed perennial water sources are one thing this country singularly lacks and it is no secret that the extreme drought in the Western Cape has had severe effects on both the agricultural sector and the residents of the region.
But a water tax proposed by the Cape Town council has residents, who have been left only until January 5 to provide input to, in a sweat and got the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) steaming.
Before the city introduced drastic water rationing, Cape Town consumers had been allowed six kilolitres a month free, an allowance for which they now have to pay, and, they claim, pay heavily.
The proposed new tax is not aimed directly at stretching the boundaries of this vital and increasingly scarce commodity, but at the municipal valuations of properties within the metropolitan area.
This, says Outa, amounts to a “punitive and illegal” property tax by the council and does not take into account that water is a constitutional right and that the city should “apply the Constitution that mandates the national government in this regard‚ instead of trying to produce its own water”.
“The lack of proactive action by the city to hold the Department of Water and Sanitation (who is the custodian of water) to account‚ is of serious concern”, according to Outa.
The arguments on just who is to carry the dwindling contents of the can has been exacerbated by the current absence through suspension of Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille.
But the council has been somewhat miserly in terms of allowing time for a full public debate.
The fraught situation in the Western Cape is more serious than a debate over governance.