Water: The Warning Coming from South Africa


By: Franklin Frederick / Source: Jornal GGN / The Dawn News / February 15, 2018

Cape Town, the capital of South Africa, home to over 3.7 million people, could be the first big metropoli of the world to completely run out of water. There are many causes to this extreme situation, including lack of planning and incorrect management of the crisis. But the main cause is a drought that has lasted three years already, caused by global warming. This May 11 will be “Day Zero”: according to the government’s predictions, if it doesn’t rain by that date, the entire water system of the city, except for schools and hospitals, will be suspended. Locals will have to go to water distribution points in order to get water, which is limited to 25 liters per person per day. According to an article published by Time magazine, the announcement of the probable end of water supply is already generating chaos in the city and it is estimated that this crisis will cost South Africa nearly 300,000 jobs in agriculture and dozens of thousand more in the services sector, such as hotels and food. Furthermore, if workers had to dedicate part of their working day to make lines to obtain water, the impact on the economy would be even greater.

But there is a sector of the economy that is profiting immensely from this crisis: the bottled water industry. The shortage is causing a real stampede to the supermarkets of Cape Town, each person trying to buy as many bottles as they can.

Thus, the reality of climate change in the global capitalist world, ends up benefiting the big water companies. The growing scarcity of water contributes to increase its economic value. Even worse: those same companies utilize the increasingly frequent water crises as a means to advance their agendas of privatization and impose their own “solutions” to the problem, presenting themselves as the owners of the “technical knowledge” and “management capability” required to confront the crisis. Under this point of view, the States should hand over the control of this precious natural resource to the “competence” of the private sector. The fact that capitalism, especially in its current neoliberal version, is the main culprit for global warming, is a fact that is mostly overlooked.

Furthermore, within the capitalist logic, we are not allowed to question the “wisdom” of markets, which decide over the utilization of a natural resource, because they are, by definition “rational” in their behavior, as well as the capitalist system as a whole. Individuals may be irrational, the simple consumers who have this system imposed on them in which they have less and less options and control. One of the main strategies of imposition of neoliberalism as a hegemonic paradigm in the contemporary society is the creation of the illusion that we only live for the present moment, without past, without history, and especially without alternatives. Water crises such as the one that Cape Town faces are perfect vehicles to create and impose this neoliberal illusion.

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