Cape Town – Mayor Patricia de Lille has declared the City of Cape Town a disaster area, in order to manage the drought and the city’s dwindling water supply, which is predicted to run out in 121 days if dam levels and water consumption remain unchanged.

The mayor made the disaster declaration on Friday.

The last time the city declared a local disaster was in 2008 after the xenophobic attacks.

The mayor said she was empowered to declare a local disaster in terms of section 55 of the Disaster Management Act and Richard Bosman, the city’s executive director for safety and security, explained that declaring the city a local disaster was not meant to incite panic, but to eliminate red tape in event of an emergency.

“Our budgets are set up in a very structured way. The money is allocated to various departments in various sections. Reallocating that money and moving it around can sometimes be a very long process.

“But if there is a major crisis or emergency it allows the city to speed up emergency procurement procedures.

“We are looking at our current budget and looking where there are savings that can be re-prioritised to various uses.”

He said the declaration allowed the mayor to allocate the money for emergencies without having to go to council first.

De Lille explained that the declaration “allows the council to manage the situation with more flexibility in terms of moving staff and resources to deal with the crisis, we can also allocate more resources as required.

We can also invoke emergency procurement procedures if required in the event of a crisis of breakdown of critical infrastructure.

The city can also take other practical measures to limit and mitigate the effects of the drought,” said De Lille.

“The council is empowered to declare a local disaster in its area of jurisdiction. This authority has been delegated to the executive mayor.

“Using this authority a local disaster was duly declared and promulgated in the Provincial Gazette on Friday, March 3,” De Lille said.

The declaration is valid for a period of three months from the date of publication, March 3, “but can be extended on a month-to-month basis by notice in the Gazette”.

Although the mayor has reported the declaration to the city council, “a council decision was not required”.

Bosman said that in addition to the city, which is among 30 municipalities in the province, another five have declared parts of their areas local disaster areas.

With just over four million residents, the City of Cape Town is the most populous municipality in the province.

De Lille said she had informed the provincial Disaster Management Centre of the declaration, as well Anton Bredell, MEC for local government, environmental affairs and development planning.

Bredell’s spokesperson, James-Brent Styan, said only the national Disaster Management Centre could authorise a disaster area.

Premier Helen Zille, who said she had not seen De Lille’s declaration, said she respected her decision.

Weekend Argus/Iol News