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DA's Steenhuisen urges Premier to shelve renaming Eastern Cape

Nov 6, 2019
DA's Steenhuisen urges Premier to shelve renaming Eastern Cape

Port Elizabeth - During a visit to the Ward 2 by-election in the Blue Crane Route Local Municipality, Somerset East, new Democratic Alliance (DA) Parliamentary Leader, John Steenhuisen MP, called on Eastern Cape Premier, Oscar Mabuyane, to shelve a long-standing plan to rename the Eastern Cape province.

"It’s great to be here in the Eastern Cape – a province with so much untapped potential. Under the right government, the Eastern Cape could really shine. It has the resources, it has the natural beauty and it has the people. All that’s missing is committed and honest leadership. And I assure you, we’re working on that too," Steenhuisen told those gathered.

"But right now, there is another shadow hanging over this province. The drought that has gripped large parts of the country threatens the lives and livelihood of many people in the Eastern Cape.

"Four years of below-average rainfall has had a devastating effect on farms and towns here. We are reminded of how we live our lives at the mercy of nature, and how carefully we need to manage this precious resource."

On the Eastern Cape drought

Steenhuisen said that defeating this drought will take a committed and united effort.

"What we don’t need now is sideshows and distractions. I see the Premier and his government are once again proposing a name change for the province. He should know that this cannot possibly be a priority now, as taps run dry and farmers lose their livestock and crops," he described.

"A new name will not bring water to people’s homes and feed starving animals. Changing Grahamstown to Makhanda did nothing to ease the crippling water shortage there. Right now, the only priority should be avoiding the disaster of dry taps and an agricultural collapse.

"I welcome Premier Mabuyane’s decision to declare the entire province a disaster area. This should have been done much earlier, and the DA here in the Eastern Cape has been calling for this declaration for months.

"But now that the declaration has been gazetted, national government can make urgent drought relief funding available to the province."

Steenhuisen still said that this declaration alone, along with the R120 million that has been set aside by the province for drought relief, is not enough.

"As we learnt in the Western Cape, and particularly the City of Cape Town, it took the whole of society to defeat Day Zero. And it required of the leaders in the City and the Province to reach out to every single sector of society in order to harness their cooperation," he described.

"It is disappointing that we are yet to see this kind of teamwork here in the Eastern Cape, where the threat of running out of water is every bit as real as it was in Cape Town. When multiple towns run out of water at once, the logistical challenge of getting water to these communities is extremely hard. It needs all hands on deck."

Steenhuisen urges Mabuyane to shelve plans to rename Eastern Cape province

Steenhuisen said that Cape Town's and the Western Cape’s response to the three year drought there was a lesson in disaster management, and is today widely regarded as a blueprint for cities facing similar water threats.

"It only worked because every single sector of society was engaged and made to be part of the solution. From government to business, and from civil society to ordinary residents, everyone was involved in either managing supply, providing alternative sources or reducing consumption," he described.

"That is what is required here in the Eastern Cape too, and urgently. We need the Premier, Mayors, opposition leaders, the business community, farmers and civil society to put their heads together and plan an effective response. And this has to be the only priority right now.

"I would urge Premier Mabuyane to shelve the name change for now and concentrate on the crisis. I would also urge him to pick up the phone and speak to the people who have just guided their own city and province through a similar crisis.

"Inside the governments of Cape Town and the Western Cape are people who have learnt a huge amount about water resource management in the past three years. They would be more than happy to share their learning.

"If ever there was a time for cooperation across party lines, it is now."

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