The South African government’s contingency fund for disaster management is exhausted and only R3 billion has been budgeted for the financial year starting on 1 April.
This is according to the Rapport, which quoted experts as saying that this is “a drop in the ocean” considering the water crisis that is heading to South Africa.
Without money allocated to the fund, the inter-ministerial drought task force that wants to declare the country a disaster area will have its hands tied.
National Treasury has said the entire contingency fund for the current financial year was allocated in the 2017 budget amendments.
The DA said finance minister Malusi Gigaba emptied the contingency fund to get his books to balance and to save “zombie state companies” like South African Airways.
The government bailed out SAA to the tune of R13.7 billion last year, and there are reports it could sell its majority stake in Telkom to free more money for the ailing airline.
In the medium-term budget framework announced in October, the government budgeted R16 billion to refill the disaster fund over the next three years. This is significantly less than the R42 billion the framework contained for the previous three-year period.
The R16 billion will become available in three tranches: R3 billion in the 2018/19 financial year, R5 billion in the 2019/20 financial year, and R8 billion in the 2020/21 financial year.
The Daily Dispatch has reported the government’s calculations show the Eastern Cape alone needs R7.7 billion for drought-relief in seven municipalities.
The Northern Cape and Western Cape have also been declared drought disaster areas.