A press briefing hosted by the Inter-Ministrial Task Team on Drought and Water Scarcity on Tuesday declared the Western Cape a national disaster due to the current drought.

According to the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Zweli Mkhize, reports show that the drought has had a negative impact on all sectors of the economy, including livestock production, crop production, food security, water supply and trade balance to name a few. On this basis, the Bureau of Food and Agricultural Policy notes that the impact of the drought cannot be considered to be isolated from the global market.

The drought has had a marked effect on the wider micro-economic environment in which the country’s agricultural sector functions.

At the last media briefing held by the Inter-Ministarial Task Team (IMTT) on 08 February, the effects of the drought’s severity was evident in all the Cape provinces. Pockets of drought and water scarcity have also become evident in other provinces.

Other than the Western Cape, provinces affected by water shortage include some parts of the Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape.

A report released by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) show that the South Africa’s dam levels saw a slight improvement of 0.2% on the 6 March 2018. The lowest dam levels in the country were in the Western Cape with dam levels at 25.5%. Last week’s reading determined that dam levels sat at 26.1%.

Despite scarcity of rain, the Gauteng province’s dam levels are 92.8% full, followed by Mpumalanga at 77.9% and the Northern Cape at 67.9%. These dam levels, however, do not imply that these provinces are out of the woods in terms of drought conditions as water scarcity remains prevalent throughout the country. Communities must change their behavior and save water more urgently.

Mkhize said the Department of Water and Sanitation will continue to monitor the levels of the 214 major dams. This information is critical in understanding the situation around availability of water in the systems to facilitate timeous and fit for purpose interventions.

“It is therefore important to underscore the fact that while disaster risk reduction remains the primary objective of the National Disaster Management Centre, it is crucial to adopt integrated planning and coordinated implementation,” he said.

Mkhize also adds that the task team on Drought and Water Supply Shortages are already providing the political mechanism for the application of the principle of cooperative governance enshrined in the Constitution, by bringing together political representatives.

The current situation has been classified as a national disaster in terms of the provisions of the Disaster Management Act (Act No. 57 of 2002). The reclassification of this drought as a national disaster designated the primary responsibility for the coordination and management of the disaster to the National Executive, who must act in close cooperation with the other spheres of government.

The IMTT will continue to regularly consider reports received from the National Joint Disaster Coordination Committee on measures being put in place to improve coordination  and deployment of resources for response and recovery from the drought disaster.

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Lucinda is a lifestyle writer with a hard news edge, and recent journalism graduate. She enjoys reading travel blogs and loves animals.