CoGTA, Defence sign agreement to collaborate on disaster management

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Minister Thembi Nkadimeng says the Memorandum of Collaboration (MoC) with the Department of Defence is a crucial step in strengthening the nation’s ability to prevent, respond to and recover from disasters.

“We believe that this partnership will harness the strengths and resources of both departments, amplifying our collective ability to safeguard lives and livelihoods,” she said on Wednesday. 

Nkadimeng spoke at the launch of the MoC on Disaster Management, where she and Defence Minister Thandi Modise signed the agreement in Pretoria.

Nkadimeng announced that key areas of collaboration outlined in the MoC include the establishment of a Disaster Reserves Assurance Fund, joint development of Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs) and District Integrated Industrial Parks (DIIPs). 

Through this MoC, the department would involve Community Work Programme (CWP) participants in disaster preparedness and community development.

Meanwhile, the Department of Defence will be tasked with providing defence capabilities to safeguard the nation and oversee the South African Forces Institute (SAFI), which manages emergency strategic reserves and procurement.

Through this MoC, Nkadimeng said government will also be forging a strategic alliance to revitalise the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), which is responsible for coordinating disaster management interventions, CWP and SAFI by enhancing the collective ability to deal with disasters. 

“We believe that this MoC will go a long way to ensure that reaction to disasters is quick and efficient because we will be pulling resources together, and the skills found in Defence will be very handy in this area.”

Through concerted collaboration, Nkadimeng believes the State is paving the way for a future where disasters no longer wield a devastating impact. 

“Instead, we are building resilient communities that can withstand and recover from adversity, propelling our nation forward on a path of sustainable development and prosperity.”

Climate change

The Minister emphasised the catastrophic impact of climate change, referring to it as a nightmare in South Africa.

“We have seen that in recent years, the severity of these occurrences and their impact are progressively increasing because of the inevitable effects of climate change.”

She said these events often strike suddenly, leaving behind devastation that affects communities, families, and livelihoods.

Nkadimeng also spoke about KwaZulu-Natal, which is prone to floods and where the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was called to assist. 

According to the Minister, government is currently in the process of reviewing the entire disaster management system, aiming to create a more adaptable framework that prioritises “resilience building”. 

“This comprehensive review seeks to ensure that our disaster management approach is agile and responsive, effectively addressing evolving challenges and safeguarding our communities against future risks.”

Despite these proactive measures, Nkadimeng acknowledged there remains a pressing need to address gaps in post-disaster response.

“Too often, communities find themselves in dire situations, lacking adequate support and assistance in the aftermath of disasters. This has highlighted to us the importance of continuously refining and enhancing our disaster response mechanisms to ensure timely and effective assistance reaches those in need and prevents further hardships.”

She also addressed the man-made disaster of the George collapsed building, which resulted in the loss of 34 lives.

READ | George building collapse: Rescue and recovery operation concluded

“We have been working to have and implement plans to reduce risks, and be prepared. We aim to respond quickly and effectively when disasters happen, keeping everyone safe and minimising the damage they can cause,” she told the media. 

Modise believes that government needs to be more organised to deal with disasters. She stated that Treasury is on board and will provide resources to train military personnel for disaster management.

“How much a disaster will cost will not compare to the cost of life. Therefore, we will be talking to Treasury about that... But with us, we’ll want to make sure that we don’t lose South African lives because there’s a shortage of money,” Modise said. –