Water WhatsApp is 'fake news', says City of Cape Town

Cape Town – The City of Cape Town and foreign development funding agencies have dismissed as misinformation a message circulating on social media claiming the City misappropriated donor funds meant for the water crisis.

A message circulated on WhatsApp and social media earlier this week accuses the City of Cape Town of misappropriating R2.6bn in international funding for the water crisis.

Referring to a German newspaper article dated January 2, 2018, the message goes on to draw distinctions between the City of Cape Town's enforcement of water restrictions in informal settlements and those imposed on "wealthy homeowners".

This comes on the back of City of Cape Town's recent announcement of level 6 water restrictions from January 2018.

READ: Informal settlements use a fraction of Cape Town water - De Lille 

The message, which contained numerous spelling errors and vague references to unidentified sources, contrasted citizens in less affluent areas with their wealthier counterparts using references to Hitler's Germany. 

"Your government is abusing the 'non-informed' and naive citizen (sic) to win a favorable position and a majority vote. A very politically back-handed approach – similar to the Hitler regime in Germany many years ago!"

Red flags

On Facebook, the message was accompanied by a blurry photograph of an unidentified German news article on the drought-stricken Cape Town.

A copy of the article posted online on December 30, 2017, was traced to Die Presse.

The article (in German) makes no mention of any funding paid towards the City of Cape Town and appears to have been included to mislead readers into assuming it corroborates the content of the message.

Despite these and other red flags pointing to misinformation, various Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups and online forums are spreading the message.

Even Police Minister Fikile Mbalula's political adviser, Bo Mbindwane, took to Twitter to share his indignation about the City of Cape Town's "tardiness" in dealing with the water crisis.

READ ALSO: How to spot fake news and false information

Meanwhile, Jan Martin Witte, director of the KfW German Development Bank's Pretoria office, has rubbished the claims contained in the message, stating that while discussions are still underway, no funding support has been paid to the City of Cape Town for their water resilience programme.

City evaluating offers

"Except for two brief exploratory discussions with the City on that strategy, no serious preparation work has commenced yet. No funding from KfW (the German Development Bank) has been programmed or committed for the water crisis. However, we hope to continue the discussions with the City around the water resilience programme in 2018."

The Embassy of France's official response also echoed that of the German Development Bank, and indicated that preliminary discussions with the City were underway without any funding being provided so far.

"The City of Cape Town has approached AFD (Agence Française de Développement, AFD) in 2017 to explore the potential for financing of the City's water resilience programme which seeks to address the consequences of the current water crisis. Only preliminary discussions have been held so far. AFD has not provided any funding so far to [the City of Cape Town] in respect of the water crisis."

"The City of Cape Town has not received any such funding from the German Development Bank for water-related matters," said mayoral committee member for finance councillor Johan van der Merwe.

He said the City had engaged with various financial institutions regarding funding, and although it had received concessional offers it was in the process of reviewing the proposals.

"The City is in the process of evaluating whether these offers have provided the best possible terms and also to ensure that the City has followed a transparent process."

Read the message that has been circulating on social media below: