Celebs are SA's new water warriors

WWF-SA Journey of Water 2019 shows threat to rivers

15 March 2019 - 14:34 By CLAIRE KEETON
TV personality Claire Mawisa drinking on WWF-SA Journey of Water 2019
TV personality Claire Mawisa drinking on WWF-SA Journey of Water 2019
Image: WWF South Africa/Rob Tarr

Actress and comedian Pearl Thusi, musician Chad Saaiman, DJs Doowap and TrashGodd and TV personality Claire Mawisa hiked, cycled, paddled and ziplined along the Riviersonderend River in the Western Cape.

They joined scientists, executives and community leaders this week on SA’s 4th Journey of Water to promote water conservation, organised by WWF-SA (World Wide Fund for Nature SA).

The journey started on Monday at Greyton in the Boland water source area and ended in Elgin.

Actress and stand-up comic Pearl Thusi in a canoe with Quinton Smith on the Riviersonderend
Actress and stand-up comic Pearl Thusi in a canoe with Quinton Smith on the Riviersonderend
Image: WWF South Africa/Rob Tarr

These green celebs were in high spirits from the outset, taking off shoes to cross the gushing Gobos River in the rain, following early winter downpours in the Boland. The heavy rainfall that morning precipitated local flooding on the N2 between Riviersonderend and Caledon, but the hike went ahead.

Later the team cycled to the Meulrivier for lunch, then helped pull out alien vegetation. The charismatic Thusi led the group in a traditional wedding song, "Ntab’ezikude", which means far away mountains.

DJ Doowap & musician Chad Saaiman hiking together in the Boland Water Source Area
DJ Doowap & musician Chad Saaiman hiking together in the Boland Water Source Area
Image: WWF South Africa/Rob Tarr

On day two, the sun came out and the group hiked and paddled along Riviersondered. Mawisa looked like a nymph in her canoe, while Thusi splashed anyone within range. Celebrity photographer Austen Malema captured the antics.

In the afternoon, everyone walked through a tunnel at Theewaterskloof Dam and climbed over 100 steel steps up a tower inside the dam to look out at the rising level, about 10 to 12 metres below.

DJ Doowap, a Nike ambassador and former national springboard diving champion, used to dive and somersault from this height into a pool in international competitions.

Theewaterskloof, fed by the Riviersonderend, is Cape Town’s main supply dam and was at 41.5% on Thursday, compared to only 10.9% last year as Day Zero loomed.

The fourth journey of water focused on the threat that alien invasive vegetation poses to water security and the efforts being made in the Boland to clear these water-thirsty "villains".

Invasive alien clearing supervisor Thandiwe Adam is helping to protect the precious indigenous palmiet plant, on the Riviersonderend River
Invasive alien clearing supervisor Thandiwe Adam is helping to protect the precious indigenous palmiet plant, on the Riviersonderend River
Image: Claire Keeton

South Africa loses about 1.4 billion cubic metres of water a year to invasive vegetation, said Christine Colvin, head of WWF-SA’s Freshwater Programmes.

Water researcher Lumka Madolo, alien clearing supervisor Thandiwe Adam and farmer Ross Philip were among the heroes along the way, who clear invasive aliens and nurture indigenous species which protect rivers, like the "palmiet" plant.

Ecologist Rodney February and his colleague at WWF-SA, water manager Helen Stuart Gordon, have played a vital role over years in rehabilitating the Riviersonderend, with allies like them.

DJ TrashGodd on Cape Canopy Tour in the Hottentot's Holland Nature Reserve
DJ TrashGodd on Cape Canopy Tour in the Hottentot's Holland Nature Reserve
Image: WWF South Africa/Rob Tarr

On the third day, the team had the chance to see the river from above, canopy gliding high above the gorges in the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve. This is part of the UNESCO Cape Floral Region protected area.

Research shows that these precious catchments – only about 10% of SA’s land - generate about half the water in the rivers, most of which have little or no protection.

Following the water journey, however, these rivers now have the celebs on their side.

Hakim Malema, aka DJ TrashGodd, said his takeaway would be to add "relentlessly" to the WWF mission - "inspiring people to live in harmony with nature" when he went home. He gave February and his team a shout-out "for making the rivers come back".

Stereotype Records released a free download of Chad Saaiman's Soldier in celebration of the artist's fighting spirit. http://www.stereotyperecords.co.za Video by Mike Jansen (http://www.howzit-hongkong.com)

On Thursday as the group dispersed, Chad Saaiman said he had a song called The Soldier which he promised to share. The lyrics resonate with their renewed commitment to protect rivers and the planet.

"And if we don’t do it Then who will do it To just get through it Will you be a soldier?"

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