XOTV WEEKLY: How South Africa Avoided 'Day Zero'

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Everything XOTV

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Everybody loves a good countdown, like the countdown to a New Year, so you can shake off the old one and start anew with fresh resolutions and maybe a kiss at the stroke of midnight or the goosebump-inducing chant of a crowd, as they countdown to their favourite sports team’s impending victory.

A personal favourite of mine was counting down to the start of the summer holidays, so I could run around and play with all my friends for hours.

Everybody loves a good countdown.

As South Africans, we’ve become accustomed to big, historic moments, like in 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years of imprisonment, or in 1994 when the country held its first election to vote in a democratically elected government for the first time in its history.

In 1995, the world saw our national rugby team, the Springboks, lift the Web Ellis Cup to become World Champions for the first time and in 2010 South Africa became the first African country to host the FIFA World Cup.

Over the last 30 years, we’ve been a nation of many positive ‘firsts’. But the countdown that loomed in 2018, which was set to usher in another first, sparked nothing but fear, concern and panic.

South Africa, a country that lies at the foot of Africa, has been designated as the 30th driest country in the world by the United Nations. Water, this precious natural resource was already a commodity that we didn’t take for granted. We relied on the heavy Highveld storms in the summer to fill up dams, rivers and reservoirs in the north of the country and we waited for the continuous winter rains to take care of our water needs in the south.

In 2018, for the first time in years, the rains didn’t come. Climate change, as experienced in other parts of the world has been fingered as a contributing factor with regards to the changing weather patterns across South Africa.

Experts believe that the extreme changes in our weather patterns, from violent storms and flooding on the coast of Kwa–Zulu Natal to droughts that affect various parts of the country, have been triggered by climate change. Water levels in dams and reservoirs across the country dropped to levels we had never experienced before. Strict water restrictions were implemented across the country to try and slow down the consumption of water.

The Western Cape Province, which lies at the southernmost tip of Africa, was one of the hardest-hit areas. For 3 years the Western Cape experienced unusual weather patterns with low rainfall. In 2018 we faced one of the most devastating droughts.

The capital city of the province is Cape Town, a tourist hub that has been named as one of the top 10 tourist destinations worldwide numerous times. At the peak of the countrywide drought, all eyes were on the Mother City, as it’s affectionately known after the provincial government announced that within 100 days the city would run out of water. This would make Cape Town the first major city in the world to run out of this essential natural resource.

The government set a date, which became widely known as ‘Day Zero’. On this date, the city officials had calculated that all the taps in Cape Town would run dry if drastic measures were not implemented.

Water was re-used and recycled; people from all walks of life lined up with buckets at natural springs to collect water, cars went unwashed. Over those 100 days, the citizens of Cape Town dramatically changed their water habits and ultimately averted ‘Day Zero’.

Massive media campaigns were launched to help educate people about how to use water sparingly, there was even a campaign where musicians re-made popular songs into 2-minute shower versions, and the idea was that once the song ended so should your shower. Jacaranda FM, one of the biggest commercial radio stations in the country collected thousands of liters of water and raised funds to aid the citizens of Cape Town.

2018 was a wakeup call, not just for the city of Cape Town but also for the world.  The world’s climate has changed and if we are to survive, our collective habits need to change as well.

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About the Author:
Kenzy Mohapi

Kenzy Mohapi is a South African radio broadcaster, speaker, writer and content creator from the City of Gold – Johannesburg. Kenzy has spent her career connecting with different people from different walks of life and believes everybody should have their unique story told, through her writing she aims to connect and engage with more people from around the world.

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