From the news desk

Reluctant car wash owners turns cold shoulder to City’s water solution

Share this article

By Ra-ees Moerat

Cape Town is in the grip of its worst drought in 100 years, where three winters of below average annual rainfall was experienced. In response to this, the City of Cape Town is proposing a waterless solution to the car wash and taxi industry and has called for direct engagement with senior management of the car wash industry.

The City says that dam levels are critically low, at 25,3 per cent as of the beginning of July, but useable water is only approximately 15,3 per cent, which is abnormally low for this time of the year – especially considering that a harsh summer has been predicted for 2017/18. According to the City of Cape Town, reserves for the dry season that is expected need to increase in order for residents to survive the summer.

On July 1, 2017, Level 4b water restrictions came into effect in the Western Cape where the City has set a collective usage target of 500 million litres per day. The City says that this can only happen with all residents, government departments and businesses doing more to ensure that all hands are on deck to save water while we still have it.

The City called for direct engagement with car wash businesses and the Taxi Associations, since these businesses are a critical part of Western Cape’s water-saving efforts.

The City’s Executive Mayor, Patricia de Lille detailed the issue at hand, saying that anyone who washes a car or a taxi using water, should be issued with a fine between R5000 and R10 000.

“Instead of just running in and issuing fines, let’s call in all key players and look at alternatives (to using water for washing cars and taxis),” she said.

The mayor said the aim is to change the culture of water usage in the car wash industry.

“For now, we have to get people use to the alternatives. If there is a need for more donations [in the form of waterless car wash products], I will go to the City and find out what more can be donated.”

A demonstrator of one of the waterless products, Shadley Young said that the product owners have agreed to support the informal car wash sector. He indicated his disappointment in the reaction that the government continuously receives from the public, who he says the government is trying to help.

He confirmed that he is willing to cut profit margins to subsidise the informal car wash sector.

“We have a decision, unequivocally and categorically to support the informal car wash and taxi industry. I think it is unfair that government is being attacked [for] subsidising these sectors of the industry. We are stepping in as business between government and this industry and saying ‘we are going to subsidise you’,” he affirmed.

Young said he understands the frustration of the people, given that government allegedly told them in the past to invest in high pressure systems to reduce water wastage. According to Young, a while later, the industry was allegedly told to use a bucket system and this has cost the car washes and the taxi association a lot of money.

Moreover, De Lille said the City discussed and negotiated price reductions with the owners of the proposed waterless car wash products.

“We’ve certainly spoken to them. We said that all must come to the table. They have the duty to reduce their prices,” she said.

Opposing De Lille’s stance on the discussions that the City allegedly had with the owners of the waterless car wash products, to reduce the costs for car wash owners; a businessman from Paarl, Bashier Rahim said that it was his own initiative to reduce the cost of his products.

“No, I have decided to reduce the prices by myself, because we are all, in some sense, working for the city,” he said.

While some of the car wash owners are satisfied with the waterless products, others are reluctant and are not warming up to the idea.

De Lille believes the reluctant response is completely normal, but fines will be issued if the car washes and taxi associations do not apply the alternative car wash method.

“With any change, any human being, we are reluctant. Though, I have to warn them that if they don’t go with the alternative, we’ll have to fine them,” she stressed.

De Lille argued that if the alternative is profitable then there shouldn’t be a reason for it not to be executed.

“If they ask people R10 to wash a taxi, but they only spend R3.60 on the product, then why should they complain?” she argued.

One of the car wash owners, Diko said that he is not happy with the proposed plan and that these products may lead to him having to retrench some of his employees.

“I am currently employing 15 people, but with these products on the market, I would have to retrench 13, since I would only need two employees. How would they then support their families?” he questioned.

Monica Fritz, another car wash owner, was satisfied with the City’s proposed plan.

“We see every day on TV what we are faced with the water crisis. For people to be fighting with the Mayor when she’s trying to help them, I’m unhappy about that. She’s not closing our car washes; she is trying to help us,” Fritz said.

However, Fritz was highly disturbed that some of the donations of waterless car wash products allegedly went to workers of the City of Cape Town and some media members who attended the demonstration.

“I am unhappy because we were supposed to be given products to go and test at our car washes. Instead of these products being given to us, it was given to the employees working for the City Council and members of the media. I went to find out why they were doing this, so one of the guys at the city council gave me one [of the donations],” she said.

De Lille put if firmly, that using water for washing cars is no longer an option.

“The message that we’re sending out is ‘stop using water to wash cars!’ Water may only be used inside the house for drinking, cooking and cleaning. That’s all,” De Lille warned. VOC


Share this article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

WhatsApp WhatsApp us
Wait a sec, saving restore vars.