To the north of central South Africa lies the beautiful land-locked country of Botswana. The arrival of rain is eagerly awaited there. Rain is so integral to this semi-arid country that the word “pula” is not only the word for rain but is a greeting and a blessing and is also the name of Botswanan currency, as in “This costs 100 pula”. Botswanans get the importance of pula.
Milky puddles of rain
South Africa is also water scarce country, but you would never know it. In prosperous cities, large homes are surrounded by verdant gardens and a rarely used swimming pool is essential. The country is dotted with small dams, not for hydro-electric purposes, but to store water. I am not sure if there are any natural lakes in the country at all!
It is only the extreme drought in Cape Town and the Western Cape has started to build water awareness. As the city races to build desalination plants and takes other measures to save water, only about 50% of the residents have cut back their water usage to the required 50 litres per person per day. Acquifers are being drained by borehole usage in order to keep private gardens green. The date has repeatedly been changed for when the Mother City will run out of water, but if the dams are only 18% full, how much longer can it be? The week after the July tap turn off date was delayed, water consumption jumped by 5%. What will it take for 50% of the population of 4 million to take the drought seriously? Even if Cape Town has a good rainy season (which should start soon. Fingers crossed.), it will not be enough to undo three successive years of low rainfall and extremely hot weather.
At one point, the South African Minister of Water and Sanitation sent a request to the country to pray for rain— evidence of just how well the government has bungled the management of the crisis when prayer is the best solution she can come up with!
While winter is the rainy season in the Cape, the opposite is true here in Joburg. Summer is ending, nights are cooling off and days are getting shorter, but we are still getting rain and plenty of it. The last few days, we’ve had intermittent soft gentle rain which is rare in this city. I have always said that the rain in Joburg is like the city: aggressive and violent. Rain usually pounds down in the company of thunder, lightning and hail. This gentle soaking rain is a lovely way to wind down the rainy season. The garden is green and our tiny lemon tree has about a dozen still green lemons.
The dams in Gauteng (a small province primarily composed of Joburg and Pretoria) are nearly full and we all breathe a collective sigh of relief but the common refrain is “If we could only send this rain to Cape Town……”, 1400 kilometres (870 miles) away.
The rainy season, under normal circumstances starts in May during the Cape “winter”. Please send your wettest hopes and wishes to Cape Town so that we can all learn the true meaning of “pula”.
Hail in our garden