President Jacob Zuma yesterday kept 3 000 people waiting for more than six hours at a Day of Reconciliation event in the drought-stricken KwaZulu-Natal Midlands where he was supposed to deliver the keynote address.
Scheduled to kick off at 10am, President Zuma arrived at the event in Impendle, about 80km northwest of Pietermaritzburg, shortly before 4.15pm – more than six hours late.
Large numbers of people could at one stage be seen leaving. Provincial finance MEC Belinda Scott and agriculture MEC Cyril Xaba were at the event waiting for Zuma, along with mayors from several municipalities in the region.
The province has been declared as a drought-related disaster area, as have the North West, Free State and most recently Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. Yesterday afternoon, in his end-of -year statement, Zuma said over R450 million had been allocated for drought relief.
The Water and Sanitation Department has allocated this money for motorised water tankers, borehole drilling and rehabilitation and improving dysfunctional infrastructure.
“South Africa is a naturally water-strained country, one of the 30 driest countries in the world,” Zuma said.
“Efficient planning of our water resources has ensured that our regional water supply dams and schemes remain water secure and are sitting with a positive water balance.
“The national average dam level is currently sitting on 66% capacity.
“While approximately 2.7 million households, or 18% of the total national population, are affected by the drought disaster, interventions are in place to ensure that all communities are serviced and receive water.”
Additional water transfers from the Tugela River to Goedetrouw Dam, and from Uthongathi River to Hazelmere Dam, were taking place continuously, he said in an update on the current situation.
Water was also still being released from the Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme into the Caledon River to supplement Mangaung‘s water supply.
SA currently loses R7 billion annually due to leaking taps and water pipes, he said.