SA drought: 2m households at risk

Those in the Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KZN & the NW are facing the toughest conditions.

A school girl tries to collect water from a dry puddle in Nongoma, in KwaZulu-Natal, which has been badly affected by the recent drought. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG -Water And Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane says at this stage two million households in South Africa are at risk of being directly affected by the drought.

Mokonyane says this means only around 18 percent of the country's total population is under threat.

She was speaking as part of an inter-ministerial committee in Pretoria, where she has called for a differentiation between drought and general water scarcity.

Mokonyane says only a fraction of the country's water supply schemes have been hit by the drought.

"It currently effects 173 of the 1,628 water supply schemes."

Despite this claim municipalities in Gauteng are still under strain, with residents in some areas living without water.

Mokonyane says Gauteng is facing scarce supply due to the heatwave and high demand, which has no link to the current drought.

"And it occurs when the demand for water outweighs the supply of water."

Meanwhile, those in the Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the North West are facing the toughest conditions due to the dry spell.


At the same time, government says it hasn't been ill-prepared in addressing the effects of the drought.

Ministers from the Water and Sanitation, Environmental Affairs and Agriculture departments will begin working closely to minimise the effects of the crisis.

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Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa says her department has continuously been monitoring the effects of the El NiƱo system and is prepared to minimise its impact.

"We have to do this work, we are continuously planning. It's not something that hits us as we're sleeping."

With the various departments communicating their strategies, Minister of Cooperative Governance Pravin Gordhan says teamwork is now the most important factor.

"The key is to get the partnership element right. This is the connection between energy, water and food."

Government says while it will do all it can to handle the situation, South Africans must start adapting to changing climate conditions.

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The Red Meat Producers Organisation says between 30,000 and 40,000 heads of cattle are dying every month due to the drought, and farmers are starting to send their breeding herds to the abattoirs to avoid running at a loss.

This has sparked concerns over a possible red meat shortage in the near future and the organisation says it could take between three or four seasons for farmers to recover.

It says of greater concern is that most of the cattle dying off belong to emerging farmers.

The organisation's CEO Gerhard Schutte said, "It's actually the breeding herd of farmers on grassroots levels and they start taking that to market because they don't have enough grazing to keep their nucleus herds intact."


In the Western Cape, some farmers despair a mounting water crisis is drying up their profits.

Several Swartland residents have labelled this dry season as their worst since 1952.

Agri Wes Cape expects this harvest to be lacklustre at best, given consistently low rainfall over the past year.

At the same time, the amount of wheat produced in the Western Cape, considered to be the country's breadbasket, has reached record lows.

Darling wheat farmer Andre Kirstens cautions that consumers are not immune to the challenges facing those in the grain-producing sector.

Some struggling wheat farmers are pleading with the Western Cape government to intervene in order to reduce the knock-on effect on consumers.

WATCH: Drought hits SA farmers hard