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.

One for December

Just leaving this here.

Oh no. Wouldn’t it be awful if there was some sort of previously unforeseen problem with the election process for a new ANC leader and we were stuck with Jacob Zuma for an (as yet unspecified) further period of time?

But that would never happen, would it.

Would it?

Mmm. Anyway… as you were.

Confident?

It’s a potential watershed day for South Africa today. Yet another no confidence vote on our rotten president in Parliament, but this one has an edge on the previous versions in that it’s a secret ballot. And the opposition parties even had to go to court to get that ‘concession’.

Albeit that the ANC has slowly been losing ground in our comparatively young democracy, it still holds a huge majority. So at least 20% of the ANC MPs must vote against Zuma in order for the motion to pass (assuming that all the opposition MPs also vote that way, which seems (mostly) likely).

JZ and his people have worked hard – in various ways – to ensure that they are well supported within the party. There’s clear evidence of corruption and wrongdoing, but a lot of ANC MPs are involved in those nefarious acts, or they’re willing to overlook them, or they simply don’t care. Previously, anyone from the ANC sticking their anti-Zuma head up above the parapet has been swiftly dispatched, so the secret ballot is an important step. But then what personal reward is there for being on the right side of history if you’re voting anonymously?

Will it be enough to succeed? Probably not, but I’m not sure that anyone actually has any idea. Apart from the fact that the vote might be quite close, there could be individuals who are saying one thing and doing the other – to the benefit of either side. It’s politics, hey?

Here’s how a secret ballot happens in the RSA Parliament.

And if it succeeds, what happens then? This.

If a vote of no confidence is successful the President and the entire Cabinet will have to resign. The Speaker becomes acting president. The NA must (within 30 days) elect a new president from among its members.

So Baleke Mbete as Acting President. Frying pans, fires.

And if it fails?

Personally, I think it will be a bigger blow for the opposition parties that they’d like to admit. This is definitely their best chance yet at removing JZ, and they seem to have high hopes. Of course, they’re going to talk up their chances, but when you put that public face on, you have to publicly accept the consequences if or when things don’t go your way.

That said, every time there’s a no confidence vote in Zuma, it damages and fragments the ANC further, and so they will surely go again. The ongoing danger is that by next time, the ruling party has worked out which MPs voted against Zuma and has moved to… remind them of their party “obligations”, and realign them with the JZ faithful.

There’s an air of expectation over Cape Town today. It feels like a big day. It feels like things could change. But no-one is willing to stick their neck out and call it just yet. Personally, I think that there’s no chance of the vote succeeding, but I’m just a humble bacterium wrangler and world famous blogger, not a political expert. And I really have no problem with being wrong on this one. None at all.

 

It isn’t, are you?

Left-leaning UK Facebook is knee deep in election propaganda at the moment. A lot of it centres around the assertion that Theresa May “is evil”: a convenient strawman argument, distracting us neatly from the fact that in the real world, Jeremy Corbyn’s policies are laughably pie-in-the-sky, laughably costed and seemingly aimed at making the UK a complete no-go zone for business.

But how do we not know this already? We read the papers, don’t we? Why haven’t they told us about Theresa’s nastiness?

Well, as further posts tell us “The Media Is Biased!”. The fact that people need telling this sort of thing is rather worrying, but still…
I’m not denying that the The Media Is Biased!. Of course it is. But that Media Bias! swings both ways – something that all the The Media Is Biased! posts seem to forget to tell us.

So, now that we’re a global community, and you might find yourself reading a UK newspaper website from overseas, let me just quickly fill you in on what to look out for with a quick guide to the usual suspects.

The Sun: Owned by Rupert Murdoch, right-of-centre.
The Mirror: Left-of-centre tabloid.
The Times: Another Murdoch paper, ex-broadsheet.
The Telegraph: aka The Torygraph. Pro-Conservative broadsheet.
Daily Mail, Daily Express: Right of right, gentile fascism. Horrendous.
The Guardian: Left-wing, liberal, ‘intellectual’ paper.

But then there’s one more, quite popular newspaper called The Independent. It used to be a part of the Dead Tree Press, before going online only from last year. And, because of its name, and its infamous motto:

…you can probably already guess at its lack of political affiliation.

But be careful, because this, as the quote goes, is “the biggest misnomer since Pussy Galore”. With each of those other papers, you get to make your own mind up, there’s no hint of which way they’re going to try and sway you. And of course, you should never believe everything you read anyway.
But please, when it comes to The Independent, don’t let your critical standards slip, just because of the title.