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Disaster declared: Drought forces Limpopo to its knees


Based on the severity of the drought that has hit Limpopo, the province has been declared a disaster area after a Provincial Cabinet resolution taken during an Executive Council meeting yesterday morning (Wednesday).
Emerging from the Exco meeting Provincial Government spokesperson Phuti Seloba said it would enable Limpopo to unlock and coordinate resources with the national government to assist in areas seriously hit by the drought. It would entail drought relief, of which the figure could not be confirmed as yet, he indicated.
He referred to Premier Stan Mathabatha having urged all residents in the province to use water sparingly.
A press briefing for Mathabatha to outline matters pertaining to the resolution has been scheduled for yesterday at 14:00. Read Polokwane Observer’s coverage thereof on www.observer.co.za.
From established commercial and game farmers to emerging small-scale communal and livestock farming concerns all feel the brunt of the levels of water sources reportedly having diminished and being depleted while the prospects of rain don’t seem to be looking up in the foreseeable future. Addressing the magnitude of the problem in Limpopo, the Transvaal Agricultural Union SA North (TAU SA North) Region pointed out in a media release early on in the week that it had approached Agriculture MEC Joy Matshoge already in May this year to implement urgent drought relief measures and expressed confidence that she would attend to the matter without delay. All attempts to obtain comment from the department drew a blank.
Agri Limpopo Chief Executive Officer Willem van Jaarsveld pointed out the crucial fact that farmers would in future have no other choice than to retrench workers, which would then again result in an increase in unemployment and in crime, he concluded.
Chairman of the National African Farmers Union (Nafu), Motsepe Matlala said government alone can’t win the battle and stressed that there should be a comprehensive strategy to deal with challenges posed by the drought.
African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa) General Secretary Aggrey Mahanjana said farmers were severely affected by the drought and appealed to government to put an index base insurance scheme for farmers to be able to claim insurance in situations of drought.
Pieter Vorster of Mahela Group in Letsitele, one of the biggest producers of citrus in the country, said the public underestimates the water crisis. “The Letaba Water Users’ Association (LWGV) compelled its users to limit usage to 50% of their quotas the moment the Tzaneen Dam’s level dropped to below 95%. If we did not do this, the dam would have been empty by now,” Vorster said.
Philé van Zyl, Executive Director of ZZ2 at Mooketsi, said they have expected the water crisis and made changes to their processes to limit water usage for optimal utilisation of available resources.
The state of affairs has necessitated a turn-around approach to usage of a resource that South Africans have tended to neglect over time. Johan Pieterse, manager of a consulting practice in Polokwane, said the country, and Limpopo in particular, is heading for a severe water crisis. “Consumers must learn to utilise grey water and to use water wisely. Our ground water is polluted due to dumping of substances and effluents in the catchment areas. The pollution of water by cemeteries is also a matter of great concern because the necessary seepage tests are not being done anymore,” Pieterse warned.
In Limpopo some communities have been hit harder by the situation than others. It was learnt that Mopani District Municipality had applied to the Department of Water and Sanitation for a R70 million grant after the Thapane Dam, that usually supplies water to more than 90 000 residents, recently ran dry.
Bransby Bulo of the South African Weather Service confirmed on Monday that no rain could be expected in the province the entire week.
There is, however, the possibility of thunderstorms later on Sunday and Monday. He didn’t want to speculate about when regular summer rain could be expected.

Story: Editorial team

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