Original Research - Special Collection: Institutional Structures and Processes

Climate change adaptation and local government: Institutional complexities surrounding Cape Town’s Day Zero

Godwell Nhamo, Adelaide O. Agyepong
Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies | Vol 11, No 3 | a717 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jamba.v11i3.717 | © 2019 Godwell Nhamo, Adelaide O. Agyepong | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 July 2018 | Published: 26 June 2019

About the author(s)

Godwell Nhamo, Institute for Corporate Citizenship, University of South Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa
Adelaide O. Agyepong, Institute for Corporate Citizenship, University of South Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa


The challenges associated with climate change in local governments are growing daily. One such challenge is water security, an aspect that draws us to the subject matter of climate change adaptation. This article discusses findings about institutional complexities surrounding Day Zero, a concept associated with water taps running dry because of drought conditions as aggravated by climate change in the city of Cape Town, South Africa. The thrust on institutional complexities is deliberate, as this affects how crisis situations like Day Zero were handled. The data were generated mainly from the actor–actant–network theory, events study as well as document and discourse analysis methods. The actor–actant–network theory is used widely to trace how actors (humans) and actants (non-human phenomena) interact in space and time through their networks, following narratives like Day Zero, and act on climate-related matters. The analysis applied elements of grounded theory, resulting in categories and themes emerging for discussion. The article found that narratives surrounding Day Zero were embedded in both political and administrative dilemmas and red tape. Despite these challenges, the article concludes that Day Zero remains one of the landmark learning points for climate change adaptation and water security in Cape Town, South Africa, and in other cities across the world. The article recommends that Day Zero experiences continue to be embraced positively and documented further to enhance local government climate adaptation for water security currently and into the future as well.


Climate Change; Day Zero; Water; Municipalities; SDGs.


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