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Day Zero: Can Israel save Cape Town?




His tweet was all the more poignant as Cape Town is likely to be the first large city ever to run out of water due to a severe, unprecedented drought in the Western Cape. Right now, desperate Capetonians face ‘Day Zero’ on April 12 – in less than three months’ time. The country has woken up to the fact that this is a reality that could have been averted if the right people had been brought in.

The right people are the Israelis – world experts in water conservation, making the Jewish state essentially ‘drought-proof’. M-Net’s Carte Blanche devoted an entire segment to this last week, interviewing Israeli experts and explaining clearly how 90% of Israel’s waste water is recycled and used in agriculture. It showed how its Sorek desalination plant turns seawater into drinking water in 45 minutes. It made the point about how the war in Syria could even have been a result of water scarcity, backing up former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan’s claim in 2001 that: “fierce competition for fresh water may well become a source of conflict and wars in the future”.

Back in the Cape, 1 500 people have signed an online petition demanding that the government call on Israel for help: “The Western Cape is about to reach Day Zero, when the taps will run dry. The Israeli government approached the ruling ANC party to offer solutions years ago, but the ANC turned them down and adopted a pro-Palestinian stance. This petition demands that the ANC cease importing the politics of the Middle East and taking an anti-Israel unilateral stance. We demand that the South African government commence immediate talks with Israel to ask for help with solving our water crisis.”

But is it true that the ANC has formally turned down Israel’s help, and could Israel still save Cape Town at this late stage of the crisis? The truth is that every time the new Israeli ambassador, Lior Keinan, meets with anyone in government, he reminds them that Israel has the will and expertise to help and is here if needed, but no one has ever taken him up on the offer.

Israel’s assistance has never been taken off the table, and – if formally requested – Israel would not hesitate to send out the experts to help. However, at this point, expecting any country or expert to make miracles and turn the problem around before Day Zero is hardly realistic, no matter how desperate the situation. Keinan himself was unable to comment.

His predecessor, ambassador Arthur Lenk, was deeply entrenched in improving partnerships between Israel and South Africa, especially around water. He told the SA Jewish Report last year that Israeli companies have continuously worked to share their experience with drought.

In June 2016, the ambassador hosted a Water Week in South Africa’s three major cities, bringing Israeli experts to address government and business audiences. Professor Elion Adar, a world-leading hydrologist and one of Israel’s leading researchers in water sources, explained how Israel’s water technologies could be applied in the South African context.

Lenk added that in the year that has passed since Water Week, a number of those companies have returned to South Africa, built relationships and been involved in tenders and agreements. “I predict that we will be seeing more co-operation in this area, not less,” said Lenk.

In addition, 20 to 40 South African professionals attended Israel’s biannual WATEC Conference and Exhibition in Tel Aviv in September, which showcases Israel’s latest water innovations.

However, this kind of co-operation is still not being put into action on the ground. It may all be due to politics, including the ANC’s known anti-Israel stance and the influence of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Furthermore, even if the national government were to gain Israel’s water wisdom, would it willingly share this with the DA-led Western Cape?

As explained by David W Olivier in an article titled ‘Cape Town’s water crisis: driven by politics more than drought’, “The Western Cape is the only province in the country run by the official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance … this means that the relationship between national government and the Western Cape is complicated, as the water crisis shows.

“Two tiers of governance – the Western Cape province and the City of Cape Town – went above and beyond what was required to prepare for drought. The system failed, however, at the level of national government.

“Wasteful expenditure in the national department of water and sanitation, erroneous water allocations to agriculture and a failure to acknowledge or respond to provincial and municipal help obstructed timely interventions.

“National government’s numerous spanners jammed up the works of a system that could have managed the crisis quite effectively,” concludes Olivier.

Furthermore, the BDS movement has constantly put more spanners in the works. In February 2016, a Johannesburg conference organised by the Mail & Guardian newspaper dealing with the water crisis was cancelled because of opposition regarding the inclusion of Ambassador Lenk, who was to be part of a panel on ‘equitable and sustainable water management for poverty alleviation’.

BDS South Africa welcomed the cancellation, saying: “The rug has been pulled from the Israeli ambassador, who will not be able to exploit our very serious water crises for his own cheap publicity and whitewashing of his regime. Israeli water technology is not unique or special; such technology is widely available through other more friendly countries.”

Yet in August, Shauna Westcott wrote in on the Daily Maverick: “The world leaders in water technologies are the Israelis … nearly 70 years of research, experiment and the steady implementation of multifaceted systems has achieved the seemingly impossible: arid Israel, 60% desert, now not only has water security but also supplies water to both Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.”

So, can Israel swoop in and save us? “There is nothing Israel can do to save Cape Town right now … it takes two to three years to build a desalination plant and there is no quicker solution than that. The only thing Capetonians can do is to reduce consumption and save water, in order to get us to winter,” says DA councillor Errol Anstey.

Yet he agrees that Israel could help the rest of South Africa, which he says will have to build desalination plants across the country. “Israel has never offered South Africa a free desalination plant, but its companies have been invited to tender and its assistance has never been formally turned down,” says Anstey. He agrees that politics are at play, and “there is no doubt that corruption has led to the collapse of infrastructure”.

Indeed, with Cape Town teetering on the edge, the time to put aside politics would be now. 

Continue Reading


  1. Elona Steinfeld

    Jan 25, 2018 at 10:13 am


  2. nat cheiman

    Jan 25, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    ‘Government and ANC are so busy stealing they don’t care about SA’

  3. hadassah Swanepoel

    Jan 25, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    ‘Ask Israel for help , time is running out !!’

  4. Bill Ferns

    Jan 25, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    ‘A number of years ago the Univ of Jhb was in a partnership with Ben Gurion University studying water, water management and solutions to the crisis in the Cape. The partnership was severed at the insistence of jihadists at UJ.’

  5. Willie Paterson

    Jan 26, 2018 at 7:58 am

    ‘Politicians in South Africa gamble with the lives of their own citizens. Israel is the only country with the necessary expertise to help us. Sloganeering by BDS wont safe us from a disaster.’

  6. Nizam Ismail

    Jan 28, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    ‘cape town have no shortage of water… period… mismanagement if resources .. yes…. by whom… DA… why…. in order to manipulate the people and to create panic and pendomoniam … I am a 30 year experienced Architect by trade… and very well know my environment… we have had an influx of people yes… Remember a few years ago…. power went out to cause a hype of electricity shortage … only untill central government made available funding for new nuclear power plant… when that was approved…. now more power outages… but also no new plant… is this a bew ploy to send money to Israel in order to kill mire innocent…. is this a way to mafia style people to be extorted by De lille who gave her sister the desalination project and 200000 water unit replacement project? this chaos is definitely orchestrated… think about it… who benefits… Bantry bay and the likes is classed CBD… Khayelitsa is Tourist attractition and radicalism…. only those two will have water’

  7. Nomsa

    Jan 31, 2018 at 12:27 am

    ‘  I normally would reject ‘conspiracy theories’.   

    However, I have seen some documentation, allegedly from a DA ‘thinktank’ meeting where Maimane was present, where it was suggested that :

    (i) The DA will create an artificial ‘crisis’ on water, similar to what ESKOM did over energy

    (ii) The Israelis will then come to the rescue with their desalination technologies

    (iii) In return Israel will be given first option to mine the silicone dioxide, chlorophyll and dihydrogen monoxide reserves that are apparently  in wide abundance under Table Mountain, and in certain sectors of Klip Rivier.

    I didn’t know that we had these reserves under our nose.   Does anyone know anything further on this ?    Scary ….’

  8. Brandon T.

    Jan 31, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    ‘If Israel is at the forefront of water- related technology and they’re eager to help, why are they deliberately restricting their neighbours in Palestine from gaining access to clean, fresh water?

    They’re intentionally refusing to help people who are right next door to them and in desperate need for water but they’re so willing to help us?

    There’s always a catch. If they help us they’ll want something in return. We just barely made it out an apartheid state, do we really want to be controlled by and in debt to another ?

  9. Isabelle

    Feb 1, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    ‘Sure ask Israel for help…. but be very careful what they will ask for in return.

    Israel always has a hidden agenda and it will the biggest mistake S.A. makes to take help from Israel.’

  10. Lennie Pearl

    Feb 3, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    ‘The goverment in South Africa is anti Israel and support terrosism groups whose only purpose is to kill Israelis. South Africa is in the process of breaking off relations with Israel. South Africa says that they are prepared to get help from Israel on condition that this help remains a secret. As an Israeli, I say, South Africa go and look for water from your moslem friends. We don"t need you.’

  11. Martin

    Feb 4, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    ‘South Africa has the expertise and knowledge and does not need Israel. It is no secret technology to desalinate, save or recycle. The expertise has been in SA’s grips for more than 15 years.   It’s just money and Government decision making.’

  12. Mandy

    Feb 13, 2018 at 9:42 am

    ‘That Israel does not give the Palestinians water is an outright lie. They give them jobs, medical aid, water, building supplies and much more. Unfortunately Hamas appropriates all of these for terror purposes and to build more tunnels. To all those who don’t really know the facts, consider this: ’67 borders? Why was there a ’67 war? Why did the Arab nations attack Israel before Israel had any chance to "occupy" anything at all? Maybe they just don’t want Israel to exist in any form whatsoever?…’

  13. Dave

    Feb 17, 2018 at 6:46 am

    ‘DA exposed!

    According to Lentit, the DA turned against De Lille because she did not want to sign two contracts for desalination plants. Lentit claims these contracts amounted to R834 million and R6 billion, respectively.

    "I will not keep quiet anymore. I was invited in early 2017 to make a presentation in my capacity as chairman of the DA’s steering committee on water affairs. "During the submissions there were representatives of Israeli companies who said they needed about R6bn to set up desalination plants.

    "These guys talked to me afterwards and certainly thought I had influence in my position as chairman of the committee.

    "It’s because I hear the DA could score R600 million funding for their election campaign in 2019 if the Israelis would get those desalination contracts."

    Lentit said De Lille had kicked the cars and appeared to be flying in the ointment for the DA’s 2019 election ambitions.

    "Do not make a mistake, the Israelis are experts in desalination. They know what they are doing. "But mayor De Lille is uncomfortable that the dewatered water will be sold at R40 per kiloliter to the City.

    "Currently, the City only pays R7 per kiloliter and one can only imagine how many more Capetonians will have to pick up for water."

    Lentit further says: "This story goes much deeper than the allegations against De Lille that his throw is corrupt. The DA is deep in bed with the Israelis and anti Pat in the way of their kickbacks. " it was always suspected that there was more to the effort to kick De Lille out and the more desperate the DA gets the more dirt surfaces. this makes sense as it ties in with Musi’s visit to Israel so whilst we focus on Zuma and the corrupt nuclear deal, the Da is selling us down the river. I have always suspected that there was foreign interests at play , the way the pogrom of the water crises played out revealed the Israeli’s intelligence at work. 

    even who funded his trip was a secret: "The DA’s Van Damme said the trip was privately funded by a donor. She could not disclose who the donor was as “standard DA policy on donors applies”

    will the DA now reveal who funds them in their campaign, as the price we the citizens would have paid to their campaign donors would have crippled us even more.’

  14. Joseph

    Feb 19, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    ‘Interesting that Musi Maimane Flew to Israel on 17 January 2017 . the news of the pending water crisis was first highlighted in Cape Talk on 25 May 2017. a well orchestrated way to get panic and get Israel to provide desalination. all of a sudden the date moves from 11 May to 4 June and into winter rains.  may Julius needs to investigate.’

  15. Van

    Feb 25, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    ‘Typical Politicians…rather starve our nation of water. If I had to accept food from ZUMA to feed my children, I would. No matter how many BILLIONS he allegedly stole from our poor and I dislike him, I would accept it gladly. GETTING THE POINT, U SILLY POLITICIANS’

  16. Steve

    Mar 2, 2018 at 5:10 am

    ‘When Israel handed over the running of the gaza strip to the

    palestinians in 2005 they left behind fully functioning sewerage and

    water treatment plants and had trained PA staff to run them. Hamas moved

    in and destroyed anything that related to Israel including the sewerage

    and water infrastructure.’

  17. Berenice Booysen

    Jul 22, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    ‘In this instance any help will do..Why speak about who did what to whom and talk water.People in Cape Town need water and as it looks to me everything is about politics,even if it mean putting people’s lifes in danger.Any help will do..Stop mismanagement of funds and start to learn and plan for the future.If Isreal should help why not,there is a drought going on.Let us learn from Isreal and plan towards a better future.Forward Isreal.God bless our nation.’

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