NATIONAL STATE OF DISASTER
Government will cooperate on relief efforts to flood-hit provinces – Dlamini Zuma
The minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, says that all spheres of government will work together to provide relief to flood-hit provinces.
Unpacking the need to declare a National State of Disaster in response to the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal and other parts of South Africa, the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, told a news briefing on Tuesday: “These floods have left a trail of destruction across the country. Hence, the disaster is now assigned to the national sphere of governance.
“The reason we went from a Provincial State of Disaster to a National State of Disaster is that the floods have not only been in KwaZulu-Natal but also other parts of the county. However, the worst impact has been experienced in KZN. Also in the Eastern Cape, we have heard of the loss of lives there and the destruction of infrastructure. Other provinces are or have experienced heavier rains than normal.
“The impact of these floods is well beyond the province so it became important that the national government comes on board to channel coordination towards providing relief in the various sectors and communities affected.”
Dlamini Zuma said the National State of Disaster had been gazetted and all spheres of government would work together to provide relief to flood-hit provinces.
Impact of the floods
More than 400 people in KZN lost their lives during heavy rainfall that caused landslides and flooding across the province last week. At least 4,000 houses have been destroyed and 8,000 partially damaged, leaving more than 41,000 people homeless. Many have been left devastated and continue to dig into the mud in a desperate search for flood victims.
Heavy rains and flooding have been experienced in the Eastern Cape, particularly Alfred Nzo, Joe Gqabi and OR Tambo districts, where roads, bridges and houses suffered extensive damage, especially in Port St Johns.
Coordination of relief efforts
Dlamini Zuma said the declaration of a National State of Disaster means that the primary responsibility to coordinate and manage flood relief efforts is now assigned to the national sphere of government.
“But that does not mean the province and the local government must now relax. It signals that the government as a whole intends to deal with the impact of this severe weather holistically through an integrated and coordinated approach across the spheres of government and employing the district development model.”
In a district development model, all three spheres of government work together in a coordinated and integrated manner.
“We have to be hopeful and committed and determined to deal with the situation. As we build back, we must build back better – not in riverbanks or… floodplains. We must also strengthen the institutional arrangements. This is really to ensure that we assist and protect the public… provide relief to the public, protect property, prevent and combat any destruction to life… and any other effects of this disaster.
“This has been gazetted and therefore we will be now working accordingly.”
Dr Mmaphaka Tau, the deputy director-general of the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), said: “[The] NDMC has reinforced the disaster operations centre. The disaster operations centre will be functioning daily to coordinate reports, also to ensure that support is given effectively to provinces, municipalities and district development.”
Tau said the NDMC had created an architecture of the disaster operations centre to address all the issues relating to infrastructure, humanitarian issues, funding, communications and food security. These issues will be addressed through eight task teams, which are:
- A health and medical services task team led by the Department of Health;
- A humanitarian relief task team led by the Department of Social Development;
- An integrated flood risks and early warning task team led by the NDMC together with the South African Weather Service;
- A food and nutrition task team led by the Department of Agriculture;
- A communication and community mobilisation task team led by the Government Communication and Information System;
- An infrastructure interventions task team led by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure;
- A security and emergency search and rescue task team led by the SAPS; and
- A funding, monitoring and evaluation task team led by the National Treasury and the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation.
These teams have been activated and will be operational for the three-month duration of the National State of Disaster. They will be replicated at provincial and municipal levels.
Worst floods in living memory
Dlamini Zuma said: “These floods are the worst we have ever seen in living memory. Over 24 hours we had more than 300 millimetres of rain. In Durban, in February, which is the wettest month, we normally get about 102 millimetres in the whole month and about 400 millimetres in four months. This also tells us that climate change is here with us now. Over the last five years in KZN we have had floods and each flood gets worse than the previous one.”
Last week, Daily Maverick reported how devastated KZN communities continue to search for family members swept away by floodwaters, about affected shack dwellers ‘who don’t have clothes, blankets or even food’, how one can help those affected by the floods and why KZN was flooded and why it’s likely to happen again.
Relief packages have started coming in for stricken communities. On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed the National Treasury would make R1-billion immediately available to the disaster effort and that the finance minister would approach Parliament for additional resources.
“A comprehensive assessment of the economic cost of these floods still has to be made, but it will run into billions of rands for the rebuilding of infrastructure and loss of production.”
On Tuesday, the minister of social development, Lindiwe Zulu, visited the flood-stricken Ndwedwe and Mandeni local municipalities.
The Chinese embassy has pledged to donate R1-million towards KZN disaster relief, to be handed over in Pretoria on Wednesday.
The Gift of the Givers has launched a crowdfunding campaign on BackaBuddy to raise funds for affected communities, and the Salvation Army in KwaZulu-Natal has distributed food and clothing from churches in Montpelier and Durban Central. The Islamic Relief South Africa NGO has also been on the ground, assisting with cooked meals, clean water, food packs, hygiene kits, blankets and mattresses in Durban, Pinetown, Port Shepstone, Isipingo, Umlazi, Umbumbulu, Wyebank and Pietermaritzburg.
The billionaire businessman and president of the Confederation of African Football, Patrice Motsepe, has pledged R30-million to help flood victims.
Dlamini Zuma encouraged all organs of state, individuals, non-state organisations and international organisations to increase their assistance for those who have lost family and their homes.
“So far the spirit of solidarity has been heightened, proving that South Africa is a caring nation. We are encouraged to see the spirit of ubuntu prevailing,” she said. DM
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