The Groot Trek: Capetonians looking for a way out
As Day Zero looms, residents seek out (literally) greener pastures
When Leigh van den Berg first realised she would be spending “half my days” queueing for water, leaving Cape Town became a no-brainer.
Van den Berg is one of a growing number of Capetonians looking to leave the drought stricken city before the taps run dry, ending up in long lines to collect their rations of water under the watch of armed soldiers.
“The moment I realised that spending half my days queuing for water might become a reality I started to get nervous,” said Van den Berg, who is planning go to Thailand until the situation improves.
“I’ve started getting quotes from storage companies, double checked visa requirements, compared long-term hotel stays in various Thai cities and am keeping an eye on flights.
“I’d like to spend April in Thailand, maybe even longer, until I have a clearer idea of what’s going on with the water situation.”
Others like Van den Berg have started making inquiries about accommodation in other South African cities, and have shared on social media their intentions about leaving the city and avoiding “Day Zero”.
A researcher at media monitoring organisation Africa Check, Kate Wilkinson, tweeted that people had already made inquiries about available housing on an online group she is part of.
“Capetonians have just started posting in my Joburg neighbourhood Facebook group looking for rental accommodation due to the ‘water crisis’. The City of Gold doesn’t look too bad now, does it?” she wrote.
Another user with the handle @Pinelands_Liqor said that once Day Zero was actually announced, he and his family would be “gone”.“Plans made. Staying in Cape Town would be just crazy. House locked, beams on, goodbye. To think you can make it through any other way is madness,” he said.
Only a few of the city’s residents have the option to move due to the cost and logistical limits of relocation most face. So enduring the crisis will be a reality for most.
Food Blogger Samantha Linsell said she knew of people who would be shacking up at their holiday homes in nearby Hermanus and Swellendam.
Samuel Seeff, chairperson of property company Seeff, said most ordinary residents had no choice but to stay and adapt.
“Upper-income residents may well start thinking about leaving the city temporarily and relocating, for example to an area like Hermanus, but we are not seeing or expecting mass selling and people moving out of the city of Cape Town,” Seef said.
“In fact, those who live here want to stay and those who live upcountry still exhibit a strong desire to move here for the lifestyle and other benefits.”The first of the city’s four temporary desalination plants will only start producing water in March and progress of the city’s alternate water sources, including recycled and ground water, is at 62% completion.
For Van den Berg, the decision to move was not an easy one and the freelance writer intends on coming back to Cape Town.
“I love Cape Town so I'll definitely return when I feel like we've got a handle on the crisis,” she said.