Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS
Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS

For some time it has been fashionable to predict that the next war will be fought over water. But who could have guessed that the war would take place inside an SA opposition party’s city caucus — one that holds a two-thirds majority?

The increasingly complex and confusing machinations of the DA in Cape Town are threatening to play out as farce and then as tragedy in the 2019 election.

To recap: last June the DA began investigating allegations of maladministration in the Cape Town caucus. After months of bickering and counter-bickering, the party’s federal executive announced in January that mayor Patricia de Lille will face a full investigation for actions that "reflected negatively" on the party.

De Lille is accused of misusing public money and verbally abusing staff, among other things.

Then, a week ago, De Lille was stripped of her authority to manage the city’s response to the looming "Day Zero" scenario, when the city’s taps run dry. The date on which this will occur — unless there is a reversal of fortune — is supposed to be April 12.

Enter Helen Zille, stage right. She has announced that she will be taking charge of the water crisis from her seat in the provincial premier’s office.

"As we begin the countdown to Day Zero, the ground has shifted," she writes in an article on the Daily Maverick website. "While we must still do everything possible to prevent this ghastly eventuality, my focus has shifted to overseeing plans for the day the taps run dry — and the weeks that follow.

"The province has a mandate to manage provincial disasters. The question that dominates my waking hours now is: when Day Zero arrives, how do we make water accessible and prevent anarchy? And if there is any chance of still preventing it, what is it we can do?"

So the mayor is in limbo, stripped of control of the council’s biggest problem and facing charges while a factional battle rages on.

And the question on the lips of the good folk of Cape Town seems to be: "What have you been doing for the past five years?"