Phased approach to address flood aftermath

Monday, April 18, 2022

Government is taking a phased approach to deal with the effects of floods that have ravaged KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape provinces.

Addressing the nation on government’s response to the disastrous floods, President Cyril Ramaphosa said government will be responding to the disaster in three phases.

“First, we will focus on immediate humanitarian relief, ensuring that all affected persons are safe and that their basic needs are met. Second, we will focus on stabilisation and recovery, rehousing people who have lost homes and restoring provision of services.

“Third, we will focus on reconstruction and rebuilding. This will not only involve the construction and repair of major infrastructure. It will also involve the construction of houses in suitably-located areas and measures to protect the residents of these areas from such adverse weather events in the future,” President Ramaphosa said in his address to the nation on Monday night.

This as he announced that Cabinet at a special session on Sunday, decided to declare a National State of Disaster.

To date, 443 people are known to have lost their lives in KwaZulu-Natal, with approximately 48 people still missing or unaccounted for. One death has also been reported in the Eastern Cape.

Several national government departments are working with their provincial and local counterparts to ensure an effective response in the allocation of financial resources and technical expertise to the emergency.

The President announced that the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) have been leading search and rescue efforts, with a total of 247 rescue operations to date.

This includes the deployment of SAPS personnel, diving teams, canine units and various vessels, helicopters and fixed-wing planes to the most affected areas.

“Aircraft from the SANDF have been used both for rescue and for the delivery of relief supplies – such as food, water, tents and blankets – to people in inaccessible areas. I have authorised the SANDF to bring in more personnel, water storage and purification supplies and engineering teams to assist with electricity and water restoration.

In addition, various government departments at national and provincial level, municipalities, non-governmental organisations and businesses are distributing basic relief materials such as food, blankets, mattresses, clothing, chronic medication, toiletries and cooking utensils.

Solidarity Fund

The President also reported that he has met with the leadership of the Solidarity Fund for assistance. The board of the fund has agreed to assist with humanitarian and other forms of relief in partnership with government, the private sector and various other non-governmental and community-based organisations.

“The National Treasury will make an initial amount of funds available as part of our efforts with the Solidarity Fund to implement these support measures. The Solidarity Fund has effectively managed the resources that government, the private sector and many South Africans made available to manage the COVID-19 effort as well as the July 2021 unrest assistance measures,” the President said.

The fund will now set up a separate bank account for the Flood Disaster that can be used by South African and foreign donors who want to contribute to relief efforts.

“The bank account details will be available during the course of tomorrow on the website of the Solidarity Fund,” said President Ramaphosa.

Restoring water supply

In a bid to ensure the supply of clean water and shelter in the affected areas, the Department of Water and Sanitation is leading efforts to restore water supply to areas of eThekwini that have been affected by the damage to infrastructure.

This includes repairs to the aqueducts supplying water from the Nagle Dam to Durban Heights, assessing and repairing damage to water treatment works, and identifying and repairing leaks.

“Areas without water are being supplied by water tankers, with the municipal fleet being complemented by an additional 100 tankers. Most areas that experienced electricity disruptions, particularly in eThekwini, are now back to full service.”

Temporary residential units and road repairs

Meanwhile, the Department of Human Settlements has begun an assessment of damages to houses across the province, and has determined initial requirements for the provision of temporary accommodation, repairs to damaged houses and the replacement of destroyed houses.

 “Preparations are underway to provide temporary residential units and with the construction expected to start by the end of this week. Financial assistance through a voucher system is being made available to assist households to rebuild partially damaged houses. Infrastructure South Africa is also working with relevant departments in all spheres to provide technical support for the repair and rebuilding of infrastructure, including roads, bridges and schools that have been damaged.

The South African National Roads Agency is the lead agency on the extensive work required to repair roads in the province, starting with an immediate focus on the N2 and N3 highways.

 “To date, around 1 300 road repair projects have been identified by the agencies involved. Progress has been made in restoring operations at the Port of Durban, opening alternative routes for trucks to access the port terminals and clean up debris in the harbour,” the President reported.

The Department of Small Business Development is also mobilising funds to assist small businesses that have been affected by the floods.

R1 billion allocation

“The Minister of Finance has said that a R1 billion is immediately available, and will be approaching Parliament for the appropriation of additional resources.

“I will be approaching the Presiding Officers to request a Joint Sitting of Parliament next week to ensure that the elected representatives of the people of our country can be directly involved in oversight of the work that is needed to provide relief and to rebuild.

“A comprehensive assessment of the economic cost of these floods still has to be made, but it is clear that it will run into billions of rands for the rebuilding of infrastructure and loss of production,” the President said.

No room for corruption

As government undertakes this work, the President has warned that there can be no room for corruption, mismanagement or fraud of any sort.

“It will be critical, as we undertake this work, that all the resources we mobilise are used for their intended purposes and reach the intended recipients. Learning from the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are drawing together various stakeholders to be part of an oversight structure to ensure all funds disbursed to respond to this disaster are properly accounted for and that the state receives value for money.”

Climate change

Meanwhile, President Ramaphosa has noted that the floods are a tragic reminder of the increasing frequency of extreme weather conditions as a result of climate change.

“We need to increase our investment in climate adaptation measures to better safeguard communities against the effects of climate change. At the same time, we need to pursue our own emission reduction targets through a just transition that protects vulnerable communities and safeguards jobs,” he said.

Helping others

The President commended the many individuals and organisations that have taken the initiative to provide humanitarian assistance to those most affected.

He also commended and expressed appreciation to the emergency service personnel, including health care workers, police and defence personnel, municipal workers, volunteers and community members who spent many hours, at great risk to themselves, saving lives and providing support.

“We were deeply saddened to learn about the death over the weekend of a police diver, Sergeant Busisiswe Mjwara, who died while conducting a search for victims in the Msunduzi River. We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.”  –