09/02/2018 04:23 GMT | Updated 09/02/2018 04:23 GMT

Drought To Be Declared A National Disaster

Des van Rooyen says this will allow more finances to be released for drought relief, nationally.

Brenton Geach/Gallo Images/Getty Images
Theewaterskloof Dam on January 25, 2018 in Villiersdorp.

The drought in the country will soon be declared a national disaster, opening up the way for government to provide financial and humanitarian aid to the province, Business Day reported. This was reportedly decided by an interministerial task team on drought and water scarcity.

Cooperative Governance Minister Des Van Rooyen made the announcement on Thursday. Droughts in the Northern Cape, Western Cape and the Eastern Cape have reportedly already been declared provincial disasters.

The Western Cape provincial government reportedly asked for the national drought to be declared a disaster as far back as 2015.

On Thursday, water and sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane reportedly said her discussions with Western Cape premier Helen Zille had been "very productive".

"We need many voices but one message. We need speedy interventions... another three dam licences were issued before December," she reportedly said.

She said that the task team would look at changes to the law to allow for dams not owned by the state to be "repurposed" to assist during the drought.

According to TimesLive, Van Rooyen said the declaration of the drought could happen within a month.

"This will legally assign the responsibility to the national executive to coordinate the disaster‚ while a declaration is being considered to be finalised within a period of a month.

"We are convinced that this will enhance current measures to deal with the disaster. It will also ensure that provinces‚ which are not currently declared‚ can be covered through measures to prevent and mitigate the drought situation."

Earlier this week, Van Rooyen came under fire for saying the water crisis in Cape Town had been exaggerated.

Average national dam levels are currently at 59.7 percent while dams in the Western Cape are averaging at 23.7 percent.

The task team reported that the tourism sector, particularly in the Western Cape, had been badly affected by the drought, reported the Cape Argus.

Van Rooyen reportedly said the drought could not be seen in isolation, as it was "important to note" that there were people in the country still without water who "must be served equitably".