Editorials 10.2.2018 07:00 am

Farm workers in the firing line

Farm workers. Picture: Alaister Russell

Farm workers. Picture: Alaister Russell

Unrest over the failure of service delivery can only be exacerbated if the taps run dry and thirst becomes an increasingly pressing problem for the poor.

Argue it any way you will, the devastating drought across the Cape is a pestilence as devastating and serious as any of those detailed in the Bible and the escalating finger pointing does little to ease the fraught situation.

As American politician and diplomat Dwight Morrow pointed out many years ago: “Any party which takes credit for the rain must not be surprised if its opponents blame it for the drought.”

It is distressing in the extreme that political opportunists from widely diverse backgrounds and convictions should seize upon the opportunity which the onset of Day Zero offers – when the taps go off – to attempt to apportion blame for a potential natural disaster.

Decades of debilitating delay and a laissez faire attitude on desalination must, in truth, be shared in the Western Cape by both the major political parties which have held sway there.

But the reality is that up to 50 000 farm workers could lose their jobs, resulting in soaring inflation.

The lay offs affecting workers in the Western Cape alone will have an “astronomical impact” on rural areas, the province’s local government department chief Graham Paulse told parliament recently, warning of possible civil unrest and the spectre of increased urban migration.

Both these issues are worrying.

Unrest over the failure of service delivery can only be exacerbated if the taps run dry and thirst becomes an increasingly pressing problem for the poor.

The threat of urban migration is just as serious; simply replacing one problem with another.

The biggest hotel group in the Cape has partially isolated the pressure on holidaymakers and tourists by installing their own desalination process.

But they have the commercial clout to do this and it only touches on a small sector of the far larger problem.

Farmworkers on strike in Ventersdorp

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