In the last week I’ve worked with two sellers in the process of selling their Joburg North properties to relocate to Cape Town. Upon hearing this I have asked, with ill-disguised surprise and probably a little bit of judgement, “but WHY?”
And every time it has come down to that family or couple having made plans to move that seem irreversible now, or work commitments demanding it. We all know about the semigration phenomenon and what it has meant for the Cape region’s property market, but at some point your desire to live in the well-run city with the pretty mountain has got to make way for logic; and dare I say it, moral responsibility.
With Day Zero approaching, Capetonians are stocking up and preparing for life with dry taps. I’ve heard reports about shops running out of dry shampoo, bottled water and wetwipes; people are having no joy shopping online for water and hand sanitizer since it’s all sold out. A friend spent four hours at the Newlands spring filling up on drinking water recently. “How much drinking water should we be stashing?” has become the new watercooler discussion point (pun intended). Yet, Joburgers are still packing up and leaving for the Cape Town dream.
What do Capetonians think of the added strain on their water resources?
“It’s all scare tactics and fear mongering. I don’t believe that they’ll really cut us off,” says 34 year-old Sam*, mother of two and entrepreneur.
Her friend, Lindsey* thinks Sam is an idiot for believing this and needs to wake up to reality. “My kids and I will move to my brother in Australia for a while when Day Zero happens,” says Lindsey. “My husband needs to stay here as he has our business to run and employees that depend on him, but we definitely have a flight plan worked out for Day Zero. I don’t really care about what Gauteng is doing, if you want to move here and queue for water then that’s your prerogative.”
Umhlanga resident Ben*, who has a Cape Town holiday flat which he lets out using AirBnB, says it’s not the first time he has had a discussion about people moving to Cape Town with Day Zero looming.
“We’ve taken the flat off AirBnB for at least the next six or eight months,” he says. “I find it morally repugnant that people are still holidaying in that region; not even to talk about those seriously thinking of relocating to the Cape. Delay your plans for six months, man.”
When it comes down to the brass tacks of the real people living their lives, potentially without running water very soon, it seems it can be roughly grouped into two economic classes: those with options to move away for a while, or those who do not permanently live there, and those who have no choice. Those who potentially will have no choice but to queue for water and think of creative ways to clean their kids in the very near future while competing for drinking water at supermarkets by being there first as it flies off the shelves.
While everyone can understand work demands and the stresses of uprooting your family, there are surely some options for that family. Maybe an argument can be made to implore those with options to exercise them and delay the relocation to Cape Town; and what’s more, should companies not be seriously questioned for their part in expecting Gauteng employees to relocate to Cape Town right now? Or, worse, for Cape Town-based companies adding more upcountry personnel to their staff complement.