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South Korea says North Korea is Willing to Talk with U.S.; Bombs Fall Despite Ceasefire; Pressure on U.S. Lawmakers over Gun Laws; Power Play in China; Cape Town Faces Day Zero. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired February 26, 2018 - 00:00   ET


[00:00:10] CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: The Winter Games are over in chilly South Korea but here is a sign of warmth. North Korea is open to direct talks with the United States. So what does the White House say?

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The U.N. voted on the ceasefire but people are still dying, bombs are still falling in Syria.

VANIER: And President Trump at odds with the National Rifle Association over gun laws. Is there a chance for gun reform as lawmakers get back to work this week?

Good to be with you. I'm Cyril Vanier here in Atlanta.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. These stories are all ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM.

After threats, provocations and mixed signals. There is cautious optimism the U.S. and North Korea could be getting closer to sitting at the negotiating table. The renewed hopes for diplomatic breakthrough come as President Trump's daughter Ivanka has left South Korea now. She represented the U.S. during the closing ceremony of the Olympics.

VANIER: It looks like she didn't interact with the North Korean delegation even though they were sitting close to each other.

And here's the other news out South Korea today, Seoul says the North is willing to hold talks with the United States. We're talking about direct talks here.

There's a major sticking point though. The U.S. is again warning that Pyongyang must agree to give up its nuclear weapons.

ALLEN: Our Paula Hancocks joins us live now from Pyeongchang.

And certainly that denuclearization option, Paula, has always been a non-starter. What more can you tell us though about the possibility of talks?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie -- we know that there have been no talks up until now. A U.S. embassy official confirming there was no interaction between the U.S. and the North Korean delegations.

But the fact is we did hear on Sunday evening from South Korean President Moon Jae-in having met with that delegation from the North Korea that they are willing to talk to the United States. But of course, it's not the most positive response from the United States but it is a more realistic one specifying once again that denuclearization has to be top of the agenda when it comes to any talks.

As you say, the U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter, senior adviser Ivanka Trump has just left South Korea. She didn't talk too much about North Korea. She ignored a fair few questions about it. But this is what she did say about the issue.


IVANKA TRUMP, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: We are 50 miles away from North Korea so affirming the U.S. position and our joint position of maximum pressure with our South Korean partners is very important.


HANCOCKS: And we also had a statement from the White House in response to the fact that North Korea is potentially ready to talk to them. It said quote, "We will see if Pyongyang's message today that it is willing to hold talks represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization. In the meantime, the U.S. and the world must continue to make clear North Korea's nuclear and missile programs are a dead-end."

So a consistent message from the United States from the White House saying that it's all very well to talk but denuclearization of North Korea has to be the ultimate goal -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Right. And that's the number issue. What would you say, Paula, you've covered this region for many years? What is it about these Olympics and these two countries competing as one that perhaps has opened this door that North Korea is considering?

HANCOCKS: Well, the South Koreans had for many months been trying to encourage North Korea to be part of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and what changed was effectively the attitude of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

There was very little hope for them to be part of the Olympics until that New Year's Day address when the North Korean leader said I'm ready to engage with the South. The North and South Koreans have to deal with the issues on the Peninsula without external interference there, clearly talking about the United States.

So from the United States' point of view, clearly Mr. Trump has said that he deserves credit because it's his pressure that has pushed Kim Jong-un to that stage. And certainly the South Korean President Moon Jae-in has also said that Donald Trump deserves credit.

But we really we don't know exactly why Kim Jong-un decided at this point that he did need to engage with the South. But obviously the Olympics was the perfect chance to have this sporting diplomacy. Of course, the issue now is how do you keep that momentum going and make it into actual diplomacy -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Paula Hancocks for us there in Pyeongchang. Thank you.

For more now on the subject, here's Cyril.

VANIER: Robert Kelly is an associate professor of political science at Pusan National University. He joins us live from South Korea as well.

Robert -- what do you think about all of this -- this idea of direct talks? And also what do you make of the American response which for the moment is really unclear?

[00:05:03] ROBERT KELLY, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, PUSAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: Yes, it is. I mean there's sort of always a problem with the Trump people and North Korea because we're getting so much mixed messaging.

I think first thing the Americans need to do is just find sort of a coherent message. We need some message discipline and we need to know what the story is.

I do think it's a good idea if Americans and North Koreans talk directly. I think one of the reasons why the Trump people have been sort of -- as you said, sort of mixed on this because the rhetoric has been so tough for a year. He has been so tough for a year and now they have forgotten how to respond.

It will be awkward if the Americans would strike North Korea at the same time the North Koreans are saying we want to talk. Where we'll be (INAUDIBLE) look at that very well and say Trump people need to figure that out if they want to sort of go forward with strength which kind of is sort of where they've been going for the last six months. And that's to find a way to get around this North Korean negotiation.

VANIER: What about -- I mean how do you interpret this move by North Korea from their perspective? Is this is a smokescreen because they've been -- they've sat down at that negotiating table with the U.S. several times before and it's achieved nothing.

KELLY: Right. Yes, that's right. We have been here before which is why a lot of people I think out there, analysts, community people who do what I do are sort of like well, you know, we've seen this before. And sort of the Olympics is sort of a lot of hype and it's nice.

I mean it's good, right. I mean you always the North and the Americans to talk and it's better than shooting, of course, but you know, we've sort of been here before and you know, we have to see the Trump people really want to sort of take this up or we also -- to be fair to the Trump administration, they also want to make sure the North Koreans are genuine on this, right.

I mean the North Koreans, as you said, have often sort of given us stuff then they sort of pull things back and negotiations sort of collapse and you fight over micro details and we get lost in the weeds.

And that's what really matters, right. I mean the North Koreans are actually going to make some kind of serious concession that is real, you know, something like, you know, getting cameras back into the North Korean nuclear facilities for example. Or, you know, beginning some kind of discussion around missile control.

I mean there's got to be something real. It can't just be sort of the atmospherics of the Olympics. If Moon Jae-in goes to Pyongyang he's got to come back with some kind of serious North Korean concession or we'll be where we've been for, you know, a decade and a half now.

VANIER: Well look, that was going to be my question. If they do sit down, what would they even talk about? Because the U.S. want denuclearization --

KELLY: Right.

VANIER: -- and they're adamant about that. But we know one thing and you've told me before and every analyst that I've spoken to before has told me North Korea is not giving ups its nuclear program. So what would they talk about?

KELLY: Yes. I think that's right. I think maybe we can build towards denuclearization. Maybe we can actually get some trust on some smaller things that we can actually work our way there. I think if the Trump people come in immediately and say they've got to give up their nukes, the North Koreans are just not going to do that.

I mean I just don't know anybody who thinks they're going to do it. The North Koreans have not signaled in any way flexibility on that. So I think we need to start with something small. I would say that's the answer to your question is sort of look for something small but meaningful. Like my sense is nuclear safety is a growing issue for example in North Korea.

I don't think this is getting nearly the kind of discussion that it needs to but you know, there's a good possibility of a Chernobyl-style incident in North Korea. We can only imagine what nuclear safety is like -- disposal and maintenance in North Korea. That's something I would like to see. Get some inspectors back in there.

VANIER: All right. Robert Kelly speaking to us from South Korea today. Thank you very much once again.

KELLY: Thank you.


ALLEN: A Saturday ceasefire vote at the U.N. appears to have changed nothing in Syria's civil war. Activists say air strikes and artillery are raining down still on eastern Ghouta. There are also reports pro- government forces are mounting a ground offensive.

VANIER: Some 400,000 people are estimated to still be living in Eastern Ghouta, some of them are fighters of course but others are just families. They're mothers, children.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh shows us what life is like under constant bombardment. And her report, as is often the case from Syria contains graphic video.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Images that the world has seen time and time again out of Syria -- another strike, another rescue of a bloody child whose name we may never know.

Eastern Ghouta has become a killbox. People here say they've never seen a week like this before. Activists have been trying to document what life, if one can call it that, is like for civilians here.

In underground shelters, they hope they will survive. It's a miserable existence.

FATIMAH, EASTERN GHOUTA RESIDENT (through translator): There is no drinking water. We try our best to give children a little bit to drink. We eat once a day or we don't eat at all.

KARADSHEH: When the airstrike stops, the brave and desperate venture out.

"We've come up waiting here for the feed delivery. We have no food left," this boy says. "We're waiting. If a round hits us, it's ok. We will die".

KARADSHEH: Aid groups say hundreds have lost their lives this past week, thousands more wounded. A U.N. resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire is nothing more than ink on paper, activists say. People fear the worst is yet to come with reports of the regime and its allies launching a ground offensive.

FATIMAH: We want a ceasefire so that people can get out and breathe; so that they can treat their children. No matter what we say, no one can imagine what it's like being in this situation.

[00:10:02] KARADSHEH: And no one it seems, so far, can stop the horror for this population trapped in a living nightmare.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN -- Amman.


ALLEN: Jomana's story certainly illustrates, doesn't it, the desperate need of these people, these children hiding in bunkers, a man running with an injured baby. The question is how do you get it in there?

Let's talk about that now with Sajjad Malik. He's the U.N. Refugee Agency's representative in Syria. Sajjad -- thank you so much for talking with us because this has to be a really unfortunate situation after the U.N. votes for a ceasefire, there isn't one. Instead a chlorine bomb reportedly was dropped on Ghouta. What's your reaction? SAJJAD MALIK, U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY REPRESENTATIVE TO SYRIA: We were really looking forward to this pause and we really welcome that the Security Council resolution is through. But since yesterday, we haven't seen the guns falling silent. We still hear, we are not far from this place. We can actually see the place from our location that we are.

But unless the guns fall silent, unless the bombs stop falling we would be unable to bring assistance there.

ALLEN: So you say you're so close you could get assistance if it was safe in there in what -- minutes? I mean it has to be so frustrating.

MALIK: It is frustrating. And we know there are people in there, in desperate situation. We had a convoy to an area called Mashabia (ph) just a few weeks ago and we saw first hand for ourselves that people are cold. They are traumatized. They're hungry. They're sick and wounded in there.

We saw it ourselves and I'm sure there are many more. There are people living in basements. There are people living in skeleton buildings. They need food. They need water. They need blankets. They need medicines. They need their wounded to be evacuated.

And we are ready. We are ready here sitting in Damascus with our trucks, with our convoys. We can go in any minute only if we are allowed to go in.

We don't go with armed escorts or anything. Our staff go in unarmed. We just go in our civilian cars and we need this fighting to stop to give us that small window of opportunity to bring assistance in.

ALLEN: So what would be your message to the Assad regime right now?

MALIK: Well, we ask all parties to this crisis, to this conflict. Unless there is a pause, unless there's a real stop we will not be able to bring assistance. More people will die. More children will go hungry.

We have seen malnourished kids in there. We have saved women in basements without food, without any assistance. They have nothing to give comfort to the kids.

And unless all these parties to this crisis, those who have influence on these groups inside or outside Syria, they have to come together. Passing a resolution is not enough. It was one big step but unless you give us this access to bring assistance in, this would mean another resolution which would go unattended.

ALLEN: You know, if the U.N. can't get it done though, Sajjad, who can at this point?

MALIK: Well, there is no one who can bring assistance in. We know we are here. We have -- our warehouses are fully of supplies. Our trucks are ready. Our volunteers are sitting around. There are always more volunteers than we need. They all want to go in

and help and assist. We want to go in and assess the situation ourselves.

It's helpless in that situation if we don't have this pause. Even give us just a small pause for a few hours to go in. The staff can be safely in and out to bring assistance to those people.

ALLEN: They certainly deserve that, don't they?

Sajjad Malik, we so hope that happens and thank you for your time and your efforts.

MALIK: Thank you.

VANIER: Next, a Florida sheriff faces outrage after it emerged that one of his deputies did not go inside the high school where a gunman was killing students and teachers. Why the sheriff insists he will not resign.

ALLEN: Also, there hasn't been any major U.S. gun law reform in more than two decades. Ahead here, the U.S. Congress reconvenes under renewed pressure to change that.


VANIER: Florida's governor is ordering an investigation into the law enforcement response to the deadly high school shooting a week and a half ago. At issue is the fact that an armed deputy stayed outside the school while the gunman was inside firing at students.

ALLEN: There are reports three other deputies also didn't go inside. The Broward County sheriff says he'll cooperate with the investigation but he is dismissing state Representative Bill Hager's call for his resignation.


SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY SHERIFF: You don't measure a person's leadership by a deputy not going into -- these deputies received the training they needed.

Of course, I won't resign. It was a shameful letter. It was politically motivated. I never met that man. He doesn't know anything about me and the letter was full of misinformation.

I wrote a letter back to the Governor. I talked about all the mistakes that Hager made in his letter. It was a shameful, politically motivated letter that had no facts and, of course, I won't resign.


ALLEN: That's one of the issues Florida is looking at right now. But as far as the country, pressure is building on the U.S. Congress to address gun control when it reconvenes in the coming hours. VANIER: And U.S. President Donald Trump has addressed the Governors' Ball. He said that he would discuss school shootings at a meeting with the governors later on Monday. He's indicated that he is open to gun law reforms. He's also proposed arming teachers.

ALLEN: His daughter Ivanka was asked about that on NBC.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a mom of three young children. Do you believe that arming teachers would make children safer?

TRUMP: To be honest, I don't know. Obviously there would have to be an incredibly high standard for who would be able to bear arms in our school. But I think that there is no one solution to creating safety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you advising your dad on this? Do you advise him on other topics?

TRUMP: I think that having a teacher who is armed, who cares deeply about her students or his students and who is capable and qualified to bear arms is not a bad idea. But it's an idea that needs to be discussed.


VANIER: Classes at the South Florida high school where 17 classmates and teachers died will resume on Wednesday. Students return to the school for an open house on Sunday.

Let's bring in our political commentators: Andre Bauer and Marc Lamont Hill. Marc is a host on BET News. He's also a professor at Temple University. Andre is a former Republican lieutenant governor from South Carolina.

Gentlemen -- we may be at a tipping point on gun reform here in the U.S. Here is the proportion of Americans who now support stricter gun laws. That's according to our latest CNN poll. Let's put it up -- 70 percent.

Now that's an overwhelming number. And it also suggests that the Florida school shooting had a much bigger impact on a public opinion than previous shootings because just a few months ago after the Las Vegas shooting it was actually deadlier. Only 52 percent of Americans wanted more gun control so the country was evenly split just a few months ago.

Marc -- do you see, do you think this has lasting power? Do you see stricter gun control on the horizon in the U.S.?

[00:20:04] MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, if history is any indicator, the answer is no. We have this ritual of having a tragedy, mass shooting followed by outrage.

Followed by people telling us that we shouldn't be outraged and that we shouldn't politicize our outrage, followed swelling opinion polls although this is bigger than normal and then ultimately nothing happens.

There are two things we have to think about. One, I think is, you know, what does stricter mean. Yes, everyone is for stricter gun laws but when it comes down to laws that really intensify the pressure to say hey, background checks, mandatory background checks. Getting rid of some of these bigger assault weapons, getting rid of other forms of checks, limiting (INAUDIBLE) purchasing even more.

Those things don't necessarily resonate. Seventy percent want some kind of control but it becomes much more important when you're looking for details.

And the second quick thing is that just because the majority of Americans want it doesn't mean it gets done because we have lobby groups particularly in the NRA which is far more powerful than every day citizens. And so money in not having guns.

VANIER: Andre -- do you think the current mood can translate into action. In other words, do you see bipartisan support for gun reform, for a new law which hasn't happened since the 90s?

ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'll tell you what I do see. I do see a lot of my friends who are actually more conservative and more gun folks telling me, hey, you know, maybe we do need to address some of these issues.

I see a softening of some of these folks that I haven't seen before. And I find it interesting just listening to what others are saying that have been pretty staunch about hey, you know, don't take my rights. I even see some of those folks saying some of these things need to be addressed.

Another mass shooting, another unfortunate situation -- there is a lot of other things that need to be discussed like The FBI, law enforcement not doing their job correct.

However someone that can purchase a gun that can fire off unbelievable amounts of rounds, you know, does that need to be addressed? Yes, it does. And I think you're seeing a lot more folks like myself that have been gun advocates say there needs to be a bigger discussion. And I think you're going to see that this week in Congress.

VANIER: Yes. And there are a number of things now that seem to have, at least judging by, you know, the public pronouncements, the public statements that have been made over the last week. It seemed to have bipartisan support.

Listen to what Donald Trump said about potentially raising the age at which it becomes legal to buy a rifle.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Perhaps we'll do something happening, you know, on age because --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. D. TRUMP: -- it doesn't seem to make sense that you have to wait until you're 21 years old to get a pistol but to get a gun like this maniac used in the school you get that at 18. I mean that doesn't make sense.


VANIER: All right. So the President is in favor of raising the age. Marc -- you see that happening?

HILL: Again -- I hope so. And I hope Andre's right. I hope the people who are strongly --


VANIER: In terms of the actual path towards change, do you see when you factor in the President's political calculus and when you factor in the support that may or may not be there in Congress, what do you think?

HILL: Maybe I'm just cynical but I see moments where the President says we need to get something through regardless of (INAUDIBLE). We saw this with immigration reform. Everyone was on board with it but nothing happens. I think that the lobbies are too strong. I'm not sure two weeks from now or a month from now. I hope I'm wrong but I don't see it.

VANIER: All right. Let's listen to the lobby or at least the voice of the lobby. Dana Loesch is spokesperson for the NRA. And she was asked that question specifically about the age at which it is legal to buy a rifle. This is what she said.


DANA LOESCH, NRA SPOKESPERSON: So far nothing's been proposed yet. The NRA has made their position clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Dana, the position is you don't want to raise the age.

LOESCH: That's what the NRA came out and said. That's correct.


VANIER: Ok. Andre -- to you, help us separate the fact from fiction about the power of the NRA because Marc was -- this is really, you know, a story thing that keeps being brought up. Mass shooting after mass shooting and Marc was referencing the power of the lobbies. Obviously he had the NRA in mind and here we have a specific issue on which the President and the NRA seem to be at odds namely raising the age at which you can buy a gun from 18 to 21.

Do you think Mr. Trump can afford to go against the NRA which has specifically drawn that line in the sand?

BAUER: Well, I think he can; his election's several years away. I think the folks that are more concerned are the people that are in the United States Congress -- they're up for election this year.

And if you're in a heavily conservative state and you start fighting -- it's not just the NRA as in itself. You're talking about those members who are very active and most of them vote and involved in campaigns and they care.

And so I think part of the big fight will be what are they talking about? Are you talking about a hunting rifle versus an AR-15? If you address AR-15s or these massive rapid fire weapons, I think a lot of folks say look, you know, allow my 19-year-old son to go hunting and I don't have a problem with that.

So I think a lot of the devil's in the details. But I think that it's healthy to have a discussion and hopefully we'll come to a better understanding and address some of these issues and at least take out some of these things that are really just killing machines.

[00:25:02] HILL: Andre -- I think Andre, you are a reasonable person. And as a reasonable person, you're saying hey AR-15 is low hanging fruit. We can all agree that we can get rid of that. Reducing magazine size so that you -- (INAUDIBLE) many clips at a time, common sense -- low hanging fruit.

But the NRA has drawn lines in the sand on each of these issues as had many politicians because they are funded by these organizations. And so yes, I think this is obvious and common sense. But to them it's not.

And so for that reason I think we'll see many -- much more resistance than many people anticipate. And Donald Trump is known for having a very strong common sense approach on something and so the groups apply pressure. And once the groups apply pressure he does a 180. That's what I'm afraid of.

VANIER: And we don't know where his own Congress is on this. We've hardly heard from Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Congress is back in session this week so we're going to be looking at that.

Gentlemen -- thank you so much for joining us today. Thanks.

BAUER: Thank you.

ALLEN: Yes. We'll wait and see if some Congress --

VANIER: I know.

ALLEN: -- members can say that to the NRA's powerful lobby.

Well, a power play is going on in the China. The ruling communist party proposes a big change to the constitution. We'll tell you why China is breaking with tradition -- just ahead here.


ALLEN: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER: I'm Cyril Vanier. Let's take a look at the headlines for you this hour.



VANIER: So let's look into this coming from China. China's ruling Communist Party wants to drastically change the country's constitution. They have proposed removing presidential term limits, paving the way for Xi Jinping, the current president, to stay in office indefinitely.

Our Matt Rivers is following the story from Beijing -- Matt.

So it looks like President Xi is going to be running China for the foreseeable future.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, barring any sort of unforeseen circumstance here, exactly right, Cyril. We could be talking about President Xi leading China for decades possibly moving forward.

It's speculation at this point because of the fact that these proposals that were put forward by the central committee of the Communist Party, just said they're going to remove term limits. They didn't talk about how long the president might be able to stay.

And so as a result, President Xi could very well be president for life if he tries or wants to do that.

But let's walk through how this is going to happen. Basically this proposal was put forward by the central committee of the Communist Party and will be quote-unquote "voted on" in March during the National People's Congress.

But that really is just a rubber stamp parliament. This proposal is going to be passed up by that body when those delegates convene here in March and so that will pave the way for President Xi to stay as the head of state for a long time.

But we have to remember in China, there's the head of state but there's also the head of the Communist Party. And it is in that latter role where real power here resides. President Xi cemented his status as the leader of the Communist Party and, perhaps the more important move between these two, that was late in the year last year.

So you saw President Xi get his thought, as its formally known, written into the party constitution. That makes him the only leader to have that done since Mao Zedong. It made him the most important political figure in China since Mao Zedong.

And so when you take both of these things combined, the removal of the term limits and what we saw from President Xi last year, you are unquestionably talking about the number one ruler in China. And that now looks to be in place for years, years, possibly even a decade or two to come -- Cyril.

VANIER: Matt, you mention Mao Zedong. I want to ask you, where does this put Xi Jinping in terms of Chinese contemporary history?

And how big, how important a leader he is going to be for this country?

RIVERS: He's absolutely the most important political figure since Mao Zedong. And it's interesting, when you look at this, you're hearing some critics saying that the only reason these term limits were put in place -- they were put in place after Mao Zedong's death.

And they were put in place in a big way to try and prevent the kind of leader like Mao Zedong the last 10, 15, 20 years of Mao's rule were absolutely catastrophic for this country.

And so Chinese political leaders after his death tried to do -- tried to institutionalize government here, to try and prevent that sort of leader coming again. But what we're seeing here from President Xi, according to critics is a return to that cult of personality, authoritarian style dictatorship.

VANIER: All right, Matt Rivers, reporting live in China thank you very much. Great talking to you, Matt.

ALLEN: Imagine signing up for a journey in which you were warned up front you may be raped. That is what our correspondent, Nima Elbagir, faced in a follow-up to her undercover report on slave auctions in Libya.

Nima went undercover to Nigeria to learn how people are smuggled through Libya, trying to get to Europe.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To prove just how brazen these criminals are, we're trying to see if someone will agree to traffic us to Europe.

He calls himself Aveke (ph), one of an army of pushermen. The brokers who work alongside smugglers on the Nigeria end of the Africa to Europe migrant trip.


ELBAGIR (voice-over): Taking me aside, Aveke (ph) repeats again, "Condoms. Don't struggle if you're raped and, ultimately, trust in God."

From here begins the journey to Europe, the journey into the unknown. Many who undertake this journey are still unaccounted for.


ALLEN: Be sure to tune in Tuesday for Nima Elbagir's exclusive report on the business of smuggling people through Africa. We'll be right back.



VANIER: Cape Town in South Africa is facing one monumental question: how does it survive?

How does it survive after the taps run dry which, by all accounts, will happen in just a few weeks?

David McKenzie reports.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Below Cape Town's iconic Table Mountain, underneath the city streets, we're exploring the tunnel system, where spring water flows freely.

It was this constant source of fresh, clean water that led to Cape Town's founding and now it's again water -- or lack of it -- that is determining the city's very survival.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): Day zero: a doomsday scenario when the taps run dry.

For Capetonians, it's a real possibility as long as their city's main water supply looks like this.

MCKENZIE: A few years ago this dam was at capacity. The water would've been above my head. And the question is how could Cape Town, a city founded because of its water, face the dire prospect of running out?

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Hammered by the worst drought in more than a century, experts say climate change will make Cape Town's dry years more frequent and wet years less wet.

Making the situation worse, the government admits the city is still too reliant on too few dams. So Capetonians are adopting old habits, restricted to just 50 liters of water a day. These ancient springs draw the crowds again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) for granted, water will always (INAUDIBLE). This is (INAUDIBLE).

MCKENZIE: When did you start coming here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A long time ago, when the -- when the water crisis started again. Of course you're all worried but we've got to do it. We've got to do it to survive.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Everyone lends a hand here but there are nervous months of summer ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) the worst it's ever been. (INAUDIBLE) long, long time ago (INAUDIBLE). So yes, (INAUDIBLE).

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Water for agriculture is also --


MCKENZIE (voice-over): -- being restricted.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): And the city is cracking down on illegal usage.

But government officials admit these are emergency measures, enough to delay Day Zero; without substantial rain, the crisis will remain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've seen a defense change in our kind of conditions, which, to us, shows that we need to adapt our way of working and thinking around planning for what we term the new normal.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): That new normal is the old normal in the Basque Cape flats (ph), where millions live in informal settlements and hundreds like Nyoli Nyeke (ph) must share a single tap.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) difficult because I used the (INAUDIBLE).

MCKENZIE (voice-over): A draught for the ages is the great equalizer in this famously unequal city -- David McKenzie, CNN, Cape Town.


ALLEN: The new normal. It's going to get worse before it gets better, too.


ALLEN: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER: I'm Cyril Vanier. "WORLD SPORT" is up next. We're back in 15 minutes. Stay with CNN.