The Blame Game

OK. Here goes. I rarely do “opinion” posts on the blog any more because there’s rarely anything I feel strongly enough about to be bothered to wade through mentions on Twitter, comments on here, insults flung at me on my journey to and from work and hate mail delivered to my home address three months later via the SAPO.

But I feel I need to say something.

I’ve been  watching the Cape Town water crisis with interest for a long while now. I’ve blogged about it an awful lot. And while “crisis” seemed a strong word 25 months ago when water restrictions were first introduced, we’re now staring down the barrel of a rather terrifying gun, with fewer than 100 days left until Day Zero – the day the taps will be turned off.

An entire city of 4 MILLION residents is going to run out of water in just 3 months time. And yet, a quick glance at the City’s Water Dashboard gives us this picture:

What, if I may be so bold, the actual fandango?

Just 39% of residents are using fewer than 87l water per person per day. That’s frankly appalling, and it shows a huge disregard and/or misunderstanding for the gravity of the situation.

You think that showering with a bucket is inconvenient? (It can be, I agree.)

But when Day Zero arrives:
There will be no water in your home. None.
Literally nothing will come out of your taps.

Want water? Go to one of the ±200 city-wide collection points and queue for it. 25 litres per person per day.
25 litres of water weighs 25kg, by the way. Transport that, mate. Every single day.

Businesses will be forced to close.
Closed business = no income = staff being laid off.
Schools won’t be able to open, creating a childcare nightmare for parents, and an educational nightmare for schools and students.

And Day Zero won’t last a day. The biggest misnomer since Pussy Galore, right there. Day Zero is when it starts.
Brace yourself for 3-6 months of no water supply.

Sadly, if scare tactics – or “the truth” as most people call it – worked, we’d already be doing a lot better than we are.

But I digress. This paragraph from David Olivier’s independent report on the current crisis has stuck with me:

Blame shifting, fault finding and panic are usual reactions to water crises all over the world. Some anxiety is good, as it motivates water saving, but blame shifting actually pushes responsibility away, and causes water wastage. The best attitude Cape Town’s people can adopt is for every person to do their best, together.

(emphasis by me)

This isn’t a political post. Absolutely not. I have no party axe to grind. But it does seem to me that there is a blame culture which has flourished in recent weeks. People saying that this water crisis has been poorly-managed by the City.

My personal feeling is that they’ve done ok considering the lack of any precedent here and the 20/20 hindsight that their detractors are blessed with. I think any city, any government, any party would have struggled with the challenge of a 1 in 1000 climatic event:

And I’m always intrigued to hear what the critics would have done differently.

But those are just my thoughts. Other opinions are available.
And, as I’m about to point out, none of that actually matters anyway.

I think David is absolutely right: this blame game has given people a convenient scapegoat which in turn has led to them choosing to ignore what, in this situation, are very clearly their social responsibilities.

So here’s my plan.

Blame and anger don’t contribute to our water supply. That’s not how the water supply works.

You can’t drink outrage.

If you want to stick it to Patricia de Lille, the City, the DA, the Provincial Government, the National Government or whomsoever, then next time your opportunity to vote comes around, you must do just that.
That’s how democracy works. Literally, the power of the people.

(Remember to choose wisely, just in case this happens again.)

But attempting to spite any or all of those individuals or bodies by refusing to cut down on your water usage is misguided and isn’t going to help anyone. Even yourself.

Spoiler alert:
Your political affiliations and opinions are not an excuse to not save water.

It’s time (it was time a long while back, actually) to put on your big boy panties, take a step back (and up) and choose to overlook the petty politics right now.
Deal with stuff that later.

Right now, collectively, we need to reach out to that missing two-thirds of residents who are still using too much water – the Day Zero denialists, the monied individuals in Bishopscourt, the Observatory anarchists, the tannies in Pinelands with their precious lawns, that oke in Durbanville that just doesn’t care – and rein them in. And if they want to moan all over the newspapers and social media and and and… about us doing it, well they must knock themselves out.
Just as long as they’re saving water while they’re doing it. Because if they don’t come to the party, we’re very definitely doomed.

I’m aware that this is pie in the sky thinking. I’m aware that if people actually cared about this situation, they’d be saving already. But just imagine if the residents worked with the City instead of pointlessly fighting the system (“pointlessly” because as I’ve pointed out – using water just because you hate the DA is a recipe for disaster), fiddling as Rome burns.

If you’re one of those individuals I’ve mentioned above, you’ve probably not read this far. But on the off-chance that you have, for the good of everyone: rich, poor, black, white, young and old please can you please start saving some water?

We need to pull together here. Or we’re all massively, massively buggered.

 

(Don’t @ me.)

Less shit candidate wins

A nation breathed a collective sigh of relief today as it emerged that the less shit of two candidates for an important job had won the election for the position.

Many people had been concerned that the more shit candidate was going to win but thankfully, that turned out not to be the case.

Sadly for those celebrating, they were so delighted that the less shit candidate won, they carelessly overlooked the fact that he was actually also shit, albeit apparently slightly less shit than the second placed candidate.

Thus, it seems like the nation has gone from one frying pan to another, and will likely now burn slowly and painfully rather than crasing directly into the waiting fire.

We can fix our s#*t

2017 has been yet another rough year for everyone, everywhere across the globe. I guess then that the only individuals who are even vaguely happy are the astronauts on the International Space Station, but even they have to come back down to earth (figuratively and literally) at some point.

But I’d wager that the people of South Africa have had it worse than most, on average. On top of all of our usual daily problems of unemployment, poverty, crime and getting distracted by the outstanding scenery, we have descended deeper into so-called State Capture, and with it, many the associated depressing economic consequences, which in turn have exacerbated the unemployment, poverty and crime.

It can like to be a vicious circle of note.

Things may seem bad right now, and that’s precisely because things are bad right now. But South Africa has a history of bouncing back from these sort of seemingly impossible-to-bounce-back-from situations. Hence this sort of positivity from this brilliant Nando’s advert.

There’s a lot in there that South Africans will understand. But it will leave a lot of 6000 miles… readers overseas a little bewildered. So, why am I posting it, knowing that half the people who see it will already have seen it and it will mean nothing to the others?

Well, because I like it and I know that in n years time, someone – probably in a pub somewhere in Bloemfontein – will go:

Hey – remember that Nando’s advert? The one just before JZ got dumped as President? That was so funny.

…will google “Nando’s State Capture Advert” and will arrive here and enjoy the above once again. For old times sake.

If that’s you: Hi. We’ve been waiting. Amazing how prophetic the advert was, hey? We really did manage to fix out s#*t once again.

I know. I’m also amazed.

David’s Water Crisis Facts

Mythbusting. It’s a thing. Two middle-aged gentlemen in San Francisco famously made a living out of it. So step forward then David W. Olivier, who – right from the get go – is anxious for us to know that he:

does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

That article being this one, in which he rejects our reality and substitutes his own:

David has gone out on a bit of a limb here by using facts and relevant information to make his case. An approach that the Facebook hordes are unlikely to recognise. And if you read it through rather cynical eyes, it does appear as a bit of a City of Cape Town puff piece, but then you realise that maybe, just maybe, they have also been using facts and relevant information when informing us about the water crisis.

Wow.

David hits us with truth bombs about the much alleged lack of preparedness:

Climate trends over the past 40 years gave no indication of the drought’s timing, intensity or duration. In fact, dams were overflowing in winter 2014. The weather forecasts gave no indication that the 2015 drought would continue over another year. A study by the University of Cape Town came out a few weeks ago, saying that the odds of the drought carrying over again into 2017 were less than one in one thousand.

He then goes in for a combination attack detailing the myths of lack of enforcement and water being lost to leaks, before a killer blow on the “why didn’t we build a big desalination plant?” debate:

A desalination plant large enough to accommodate Cape Town’s needs (450 megalitres per day) would cost 15 billion rand to build and then millions more to maintain.
There is a chance that by the time such a plant is built, the drought would be over. The city would be left with a very expensive white elephant.

And then, after a page or two of cold, hard realities, a single paragraph of reasoned opinion.

Blame shifting, fault finding and panic are usual reactions to water crises all over the world. Some anxiety is good, as it motivates water saving, but blame shifting actually pushes responsibility away, and causes water wastage. The best attitude Cape Town’s people can adopt is for every person to do their best, together. The world is watching, let’s set them an example to follow.

How dare you, David? How very dare you?

Of course, as a Cape Town resident, you might feel that sharing this sort of thing might move some of the responsibility away from the city and onto your shoulders. And, if I may be so bold, that’s probably one very good reason that these myths have conveniently gone unchallenged and been perpetuated on social media, around braais, and on social media around braais.

Why not lead the way by breaking the cycle and when one of these Seven Deadly Myths [Really? – Ed.] gets quoted in your presence, give them a friendly nudge or punch in the face and tell them the truth?

It’s ever so liberating.

Monday

South African Twitter was a nice place to be today* as some of the country’s farmers took to the streets to protest about “alleged” farm murders.
I say “alleged” because that’s (primarily) the matter over which there is a degree of disagreement, with the protest protagonists claiming a “white genocide”, and their critics claiming that there is no specific problem. It’s entirely likely that neither party is correct, and rather that the truth lies somewhere in between the two, but you try finding some independent commentary on the subject. It’s like fracking, but with human lives. (Or, I suppose, not, depending on your point of view.)
Even the usually reasonable and reliable Africa Check seems to have ducked this thorny apple, with their convenient “look, it’s really difficult to calculate” response.

It’s all been spiced up with a healthy degree of racism (this being a predominantly white protest and the old SA flag on display here and there) and sharing of fake news (this being 2017 and the old SA flag having been previously on display at other places). It’s certainly brought plenty of previously hidden opinions and feelings to light; as one individual pointed out “This is a good day to work out who to unfriend on Facebook”. Oh, and there have been some PRIZE candidates on either side. But were we all to do that here today, SA social media would be a barren, empty place tomorrow, instead of just the normal tense, bitter powder keg that we all know and love.
Better then just to observe and make mental notes. Or just use the MUTE button. Although each to their own, of course. Heaven help me if I don’t make that abundantly clear.

Elsewhere, our government continues to take the piss on an unprecedented scale, but we’re too busy fighting amongst ourselves to pay any attention to any of that.

Brilliant.

 

* This is sarcasm. Deep, deep sarcasm, thick like treacle. Thick, thick treacle.