A Drought Too Far #CapeTown

It was around 1965/1966 when there was a terrible drought and it came at a time when my tribe was noted for pride and arrogance, social injustices, etc. It was a time of mixing sundowners and a fair level of irreverence, masked by a deep religious conscience – a token one, when measured in bulk.

During this period, the drought became intense and church services were held. Yet we did not pray for rain, as the church minister encouraged people to repent from their ways. Repentance is the admission of guilt and turning away from the offence.

People sobbed, cried out to God because of their sins. A few minutes into the service, a church council member went up to the minister, whispered in his ear. Then, the minister interrupted the proceedings and urged all to instantly make their way home, as some had thirty or fifty miles to drive and a cloudburst was happening outside – from skies that were clear minutes before. On this flat highveld land, storms could usually be seen from a distance, but not this time.

I saw this again, during another terrible drought in the Overberg – North Boland region, in the very early 1970’s. In our church, the reverend, Mr Combrinck, asked people not to pray for rain but to seek God’s face first, to deal with sinful attitudes, to repent. The miracle was repeated while we were still in church.

It is a principle of Scripture that we will have our early rains, our late ones, our seasonal rains in abundance at the appropriate times, when our relationship with Jesus is where it is supposed to be.

I see the drought, I hear the mockers ridicule, I see pride and arrogance. I see bad driving, which really reflects the heart. I see people rioting, I see arson, corruption, all manner of crime, drug dealing and prostitution, promiscuity and a worship of other gods – things that replace Jesus as Number One.

I see support for Antichrist political movements local and abroad, support for atheist Marxist communism, I see support for public violence, greed, corporate coveting of what belong to others.

I see children rebel against their parents, so many daughters forsaking and betraying their very own flesh and blood, who had raised them. I see hate, unforgiveness and I see an open aversion to Jesus.

Mention Jesus in a Tweet and instantly lose scores of followers.

Then I see this terrible drought and, in my mind’s eye, I see the blatant sexual promiscuity on my city’s streets. There even has been bicycle rides totally in the nude, with young children attending – girls who have yet to develop. The Mayor gave a blessing just as other God-antagonising events get promoted so that Cape Town can “keep up with the rest of the world.”

Is this wave of drought, crime, economic downturn, political instability perhaps how the much-predicted tsunami is hitting Cape Town?

Favour comes through relationship and we want our loving Father’s blessing yet we try to denounce Him in public? Are we not deluded in our thinking?

While we do bad things, we participate in the sensus and well over 8 out of every 10 proclaim to be Christian. Isn’t it time we had the integrity to live up to our claims?

Twitter & IG @awethentiq


A Different Drought

Imagine that. A drought of 21 years, no credit possible from the bank. How do you buy seed to plant?

Another thing – you had to sell your ploughs and tractors to pay the rent, now you can’t do farming. The family cow stopped giving milk, eventually had to be slaughtered. Same goes for hens that stopped laying eggs.

And your physical disability acquired along the way stopped you from tilling the land manually.

In the faith community around you, everybody turned a blind eye? How would that have made you feel? No neighbour stopping by with a loaf of bread or a pint of milk?

Do you know how many people live in such droughts all around us, scraping by on faith alone?

Living by faith alone – an academic, romantic concept. Until you try it out.

Faith isn’t talk.

Are you prepared to leave your home, car, money, career behind and literally walk out, not knowing where to next? This is what many missionaries have to do. It sounds romantic.

But is it? How many times can you chew bread to make it last?

Dam Empty

December 2015 was the hottest and driest in over a century. When one has grown up in a family of civil engineering constructors, dam builders at that, water awareness is in your bone marrow.  Warnings about a severe drought coming was ignored because the political leaders don’t listen to people.  In the process, the very lives of roughly four million people, also the economy that sustains them, have been placed at risk. A potential humanitarian crisis in the making.  I see this neglect as irresponsible and bordering upon criminal – to me, it makes Apartheid look small.

Our water reserves – the safe kitty in the life bank – was splurged on luxuries, not essential needs. Our leaders, in their acute ignorance, defied logic by letting dams run dry while there was a very clear pattern of reduced rainfall.

I so many times drove through poorer suburbs and saw how people collected water from a central tap, then leaving it wide open while purified drinking water was running down the streets, the next person carrying a plastic container still many metres away.  Be it such a water waster or the wealthy person watering the air above his lawn, wastage is wastage and a senseless act.

As I child, sitting quietly listening to conversations of the adults, afforded me a fairly good general knowledge and an understanding of how life works. Sadly, children are given electronic games and sent to play on their own, removing society’s corporate IQ from the next generations. Perhaps this is why senior officials of the City of Cape Town pardoned themselves by stating “there was no way that we could see this crises coming.”

Of course, they were so very wrong! The signs were very clear yet they lacked the insight of traditional wisdom.  City people who don’t understand nature. Scientists sometimes don’t see what basic people living close to nature, do.  To the latter, it comes natural, as they are experienced observers of natural trends. For example, scientists don’t understand why whales do “tail hopping” yet common fishermen do. In the same way, even farm hands saw the drought coming but, even in 2017, Cape Town Executive Mayor, Patricia De Lille, said that there was “no crisis.”

A tad over four million people live in the Western Cape of South Africa. Not just the City of Cape Town, but those living in rural areas also make use of water from, for instance, Vogelvlei Dam.

Coming from a culture where one stood upright in a bowl and washed down with a jug, where cars were sometimes dusted and not washed, toilets were only flushed when solids were deposited it has always been hard to see how water was wasted in suburbia. Water sprinklers on lush lawns, with taps opened too wide, maybe also with the usual wind blowing, up to ninety percent of that water ended up in the atmosphere!

Purified drinking water get used to flush toilets and water gardens. So many homes have swimming pools. Then, Cape Town’s water comes from mountains fairly far away from the city. When it rains in Cape Town, it doesn’t necessarily also rain in the catchment areas of our major dams.  These are:

  • Theewaterskloof  (a dam my late grandpa envisioned and proposed, planned but it was built after his death)
  • Vogelvlei Dam that also provides water to much of the Swartland and West Coast
  • The two Steenbras Dams
  • Wemmershoek Dam
  • Berg River Dam

The general level of ignorance as far as understanding water is concerned, is astounding. It seems that people show very little interest in their life-giving water and just assume there is much more, out there, somewhere.


Section of Theewaterskloof Dam, July 11, 2017 – Photo credit P. Louw

Large expanses of where water used to dominate, now meet the eye. People are fooled into thinking there is no problem when they, as we did on June 9, 2017, drive across the Theewaterskloof Dam wall and see some water. To the untrained eye, it looks fairly good but then the observers most likely don’t know what the dam should have looked liked if much fuller.  As water flows into the dam, water levels don’t only go higher but also much, much wider. As hundreds of hectares now lie exposed, imagine the volume of water presently not in the dams.

The sand is too wet to be dredged out at this stage, as it forms an aquifer that also holds in water and protect it from evaporation.  Even deepening the dams won’t resolve anything, for these reasons:

  • The inlet to the water pipe is at a fixed height and water below that level simply cannot flow into it. The pipeline gravitates into a tunnel which cannot be lowered, so there would be no way to lift that quantity of water into the pipeline.
  • It would remove the sand holding the last bit of water
  • Moving that amount of earth would take many years, time we don’t have
  • Where will the mountain of soil be taken to?

Many people have arguments about water, but here is what needs to be done:

  • Ban the many swimming pools, lush gardens and car washes
  • Create a parallel system and use treated waste water for use in gardens, toilets, etc., while drinking water is supplied separately.
  • Step up water savings projects, in so many homes leaking toilet valves, etc., waste millions of litres of water per day. Go from house to house and cut off water where wastage is encountered, be totally strict.  Instill in people a fear as it is too easy to pay a fine.
  • We have the ocean around us, desalination for industrial use is much cheaper than producing drinking water; provide much of the drinking water from the Atlantic ocean that surrounds Cape Town and beyond.
  • Use aquifers but bear in mind that these will also dry up in the end.
  • There is no guarantee of ample rain; indications are that more drought is to come. Teach children at school, at tertiary level, educate the public. Inspire people to become water wise. Educate, educate, educate.
  • Policing water usage has never been done effectively; we need to see radical change in this.

About the springs and rivulets around the city, a Facebook user was advised as follows by the City of Cape Town (reprinted with permission.)

“Please be advised that the City has been aware of these springs off the Table Mountain range and has been utilising some of them in various forms for decades. The City is currently applying to the National Government to use these springs more extensively, and if this application to further harness these springs is successful, they will be used to offset the demand on our potable water resources, for the benefit of all residents.

In addition to further exploring options to utilise the springs around Table Mountain, the City has been studying the deep aquifer underlying the Cape Folded Mountain Belt (which essentially runs from Vanrhynsdorp to Mossel Bay) for more than 10 years to determine the best possible sites to be able to extract water viably and with minimal impact on the environment. This water will be abstracted to augment the potable water supply. We are nearing the end of the exploratory phase and are about to enter the pilot phase which will help us identify and confirm the locations and design of future production wellfields. The City chose to adopt a precautionary approach to the project in order to ensure that the integrity of the environment was not compromised. The allegation that ‘the municipality is sitting on this resource and busy arranging business interests to take over the management of some of these springs for private gain’ is pure fiction. The National Department of Water and Sanitation is the custodian of our country’s water resources, and ultimately decides on how water resources can and should be used by municipalities, agriculture and all other users of water.

The claim that harnessing this spring water could have prevented the water crisis is also unsubstantiated. The City’s studies show that the yield from these springs is not enough to offset the current drought. For example, the Oranjezicht spring source (mentioned in the post) flows out at approximately 2,77 million litres every 24 hours. However, this varies according to the season. Unrestricted peak summer demand from the City’s residents is currently approximately 1,05 – 1,15 billion litres per day. In order to preserve our water over the coming summer, we need to reduce this to 800 million litres per day – a reduction of 250 – 350 million litres. As such, even if the water from these springs had been licensed, it would not have made a significant difference. The suggestion that there is no ‘real’ water crisis is not true, and is very irresponsible during the current severe drought being experienced in the Western Cape and other parts of the country, in which the successful adherence to water restrictions is critical to ensure that our water supplies are protected. Thank you.”

We really need to start taking our water seriously and become educated on this subject.