CAPE TOWN– The South African government has declared a national state of disaster to deal with the drought and water crisis which has gripped vast parts of the country, and especially the second largest city, Cape Town, for more than two years.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister Zweli Mkhize, who made announcement on behalf of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team on Drought and Water Scarcity at a media briefing here Tuesday, said the government was ready to provide financial assistance where necessary and subject to legal prescripts.

During the Budget Speech last month, it was announced that a provisional allocation of 6.0 billion Rand (about 508 million US dollars) has been set aside in the 2018/19 fiscal year for several purposes, including drought relief and to augment public infrastructure investment.

Mkhize said measures were being put in place to ensure that requests for funding were being considered, as received from the provinces.

The reclassification of drought as a national disaster designated the primary responsibility for the co-ordination and management of the disaster to the national executive, which must act in close co-operation with the other spheres of government to deal with the disaster and its consequences. The declaration covers a period of three months.

Mkhize said that three provinces — the whole of Western Cape Province, some parts of Northern Cape and Eastern Cape — are extremely affected, and are not yet showing comforting signs of improvement. “At this stage there is no indication to support rainfall that is more than 25 millimetres for the Western and Northern Cape Provinces, except perhaps a low likelihood along the south coastal areas,” he added.

He said the government had taken measures to address underlying factors, including weak inter-governmental relations arrangements in development planning and implementation, ageing infrastructure, lack of operations and maintenance of infrastructure, and capacity constraints particularly with regard to technical expertise.

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