CEO calls out civil society for lacking activism over water crisis

'Far too serious a matter' to be left in hands of politicians, says Accentuate CEO Fred Platt

CEO calls out civil society for lacking activism over water crisis

7 February 2018

Pretoria – The water crisis facing Cape Town and the rest of the country is "far too serious a matter" for it to be left to politicians to deal with.

This is the view of Accentuate CEO Fred Platt, who was speaking at the National Press Club in Pretoria on Wednesday.

"I think the important thing to understand is that water is far too serious a matter to leave to the politicians. At the end of the day, civil society is very, very involved in politics, but something as fundamental as water, I haven’t seen the activism that I believe there should be," Platt said.

"Now is not the time to point fingers at anyone, now is not the time to say it’s 'this one or it’s that one', now is the time for a full reaction, and now is the time to get everyone into a room and say 'listen, this is like going to war'," he said.

Platt said Cape Town was the face of the country for the rest of the world and that it was imperative to show that the city was working together to improve the situation.

Professor Anthony Turton, a specialist in water resource management, agreed with Platt and said the issue of water scarcity in South Africa had to be dealt with without political interference.

He said the issues facing Cape Town and other cities could be tackled by forward thinking plans and a number of other smart strategies, which would include the involvement of big business.

"We have to talk straight to each other, we have to be serious with each other," he said.

'Major economic catastrophe'

Turton said the water crisis in the country could be alleviated if more effort was made to recycle and reuse water.

"No one is making any effort to recover water from waste. That’s the first thing we have to do, that’s the low hanging fruit," he said, using Perth in Australia as an example where a large percentage of water is recycled.

Turton said desalination - not only in Cape Town, but further inland - could also alleviate water problems. He said the conjunctive use of surface and ground water was another strategy that should be implemented.

He said the country was facing a "major economic catastrophe" if the water crisis wasn’t managed properly.

Beyond the economic impact, Turton also warned about the potential for the outbreak of diseases.

Earlier this week, the City of Cape Town warned about the potential for disease outbreaks ahead of Day Zero.

"We are all on high alert," Virginia De Azevedo, a manager in the City of Cape Town's health department, said on Monday.