Ramaphosa vows comprehensive KZN recovery effort, zero corruption tolerance
There would be no room for corruption, mismanagement or fraud ‘of any sort’ as South Africa embarked on a long-term recovery after the devastating flooding in KwaZulu-Natal that had led to more than 400 deaths, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday night during a televised address.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the provincial state of disaster declared in KZN last week was “inadequate to deal with the scale of the emergency and the required reconstruction and rehabilitation measures and responses”. It was thus decided by the Cabinet at an emergency meeting on Sunday that a National State of Disaster should be declared.
“The significance of the Port of Durban and related infrastructure for the effective operation of the country’s economy means that this disaster has implications far beyond the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
“With the heavy rains and flooding in the Eastern Cape and indications from the South African Weather Service that the North West and Free State may also be affected by bad weather, it is clear that there are other areas of the country that need emergency interventions,” said Ramaphosa.
He said that the government had learnt (from the looting that accompanied relief efforts) during the Covid-19 pandemic, and would draw on stakeholders to be part of an oversight structure to ensure public funds were “properly accounted for and that the state receives value for money”.
The stakeholders would include the office of the Auditor-General, business representatives, the religious sector, labour, community-based organisations and professional bodies such as engineers and accountants.
“We are determined that there must be transparency and accountability as the projects are costed and implemented, as well as how resources are deployed from the beginning.”
Ramaphosa said the response would take place in three phases.
“First, we will focus on the 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, and thirdly, we will focus on reconstruction and rebuilding, as many areas have been destroyed and devastated, including infrastructure.
“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 adverse weather events also in the future.”
Ramaphosa also mentioned that most of the homes lost in the floods were those built close to rivers and waterways — particularly informal settlements. Premier Sihle Zikalala had stated the same thing during a press briefing on Sunday.
Said Zikalala: “In reality, no building should ever have been allowed to be erected at such a location. As part of the future plans we should implement a no-building line across all municipalities using the Prevention of Re-emergence of Slums Act.”
Ramaphosa said one the “most pressing challenges” was the supply of clean water and shelter”.
“An immediate task is to house those people who have been displaced by the floods. Preparations are under way to provide temporary residential units and it is expected that construction of these should begin by the end of this week. Financial assistance through a voucher system is being made available to assist households to rebuild partially damaged houses.”
He said the South African National Roads Agency would be 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” while at least 1,300 road repair projects had been identified.
In stark contrast to the Covid-19 state of disaster that was officially halted earlier this month — and was undertaken via the secretive National Coronavirus Command Council — Ramaphosa said he would ask for a joint sitting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces “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”.
He confirmed that 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 is clear that it will run into billions of rands for the rebuilding of infrastructure and loss of production.”
Ramaphosa reiterated the claim that the floods were the result of climate change alone, with no mention of the need to ensure infrastructure, such as stormwater systems, roads and other infrastructure were maintained and upgraded.
Lack of trust
What was striking about the President’s address was his acceptance that the public did not trust the government with emergency funds.
He said he had already met the leadership of the Solidarity Fund, which had agreed to “assist with humanitarian and other forms of relief”, and that the National Treasury would make an initial amount available to the fund. The fund would set up a special bank account for flood disaster relief.
The Solidarity Fund, which works closely with government and business, was set up shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic State of Disaster was announced in March 2020, to help fundraise and disburse funds to aid the response to the pandemic. The fund claims it is independent, its activities are transparent, and that it adheres to strict governance standards.
The KwaZulu-Natal department of cooperative governance has released bank details to which those wanting to help can donate, but many donors — including political parties such as the IFP — have instead given to independent organisations such as Gift of the Givers, that have a track record of delivery.
Despite Zikalala’s claims on Sunday that the provincial government would put in place various safeguards to “prevent any form of looting”, revelations that an eThekwini Metro water tanker was diverted to his home to supply his property with water has caused outrage.
On Friday, 15 April, just after 7pm, an eThekwini Municipality water truck off-loaded an entire tanker at his La Mercy home.
According to the La Mercy Civic and Ratepayers Association (LMRCA), this took place while, just metres away, affected residents were queuing at a community hall, mosque and Hindu temple for food and water.
The chair of the LMRCA, Ravi Ramsundar, said on Monday that when questioned, “the driver advised that the water tanker was destined for Tongaat, but that it was rerouted to the premier’s home. This took place while there were people lining up at the mosque for water. The mosque currently offers a borehole facility to its residents in order to assist with water.
“The incident was witnessed by several members of LMRCA who were on site as well as several residents, security at the mosque and all those queuing at the mosque for water. The mosque and the premier’s home is approximately five metres away from each and at a cul-de-sac. It was hard to miss the water tanker and residents were congregating to fill up their buckets.”
Zikalala said during the same Sunday briefing that the media had focused on the water tanker being delivered to his home, when in fact it had already distributed water to all of the other homes in the area before stopping at his. The media also ignored that his wife had been cooking meals for the affected community members and had also physically carried water to the family home, he said.
But Ramsunder also rubbished this in his Monday statement, saying Zikalala’s wife and a team from the department of social development — along with a media team — “descended on the La Mercy Hall together with a catering company where they proceeded to offload [curried chicken and food]” after the incident as a face-saving exercise.
eThekwini water infrastructure repair bill R934m
Zikalala said on Sunday that the government was busy “quantifying” the damage to water infrastructure. “We don’t want to be alarmist and give figures without proper assessment,” he said.
“…The water infrastructure has been hugely and severely damaged… we were still fighting a backlog [of water provision before the flooding]. There are people who don’t have water and we always distribute through water tankers in those areas. So, this is a setback, but we will be able to give you exact figures once we have done a thorough assessment.”
According to a report made by eThekwini’s head of water, Ednick Msweli, and dated Monday, water supply had been restored to all five regions of the city.
The report is titled “Storm damage to eThekwini water and wastewater infrastructure”. Durban’s inner west region (which includes Pinetown, Reservoir Hills, Marianhill) and outer west region (which includes Camperdown, Ximba, Hammarsdale, Drummond) had had their water supply restored to about 60% of normal capacity, according to the document.
Water supply in the central region (which includes the Durban CBD, Glenwood, Shallcross, Morningside) and northern region (which includes Tongaat, La Lucia, Umhlanga) had been restored to 50% and 40% respectively.
It is in eThekwini’s southern area, close to the old airport, where the bulk of the damage has occurred. Here, only 20% of water services are working, according to the report.
This is a massive region that includes the highly populated areas of Umlazi, Amanzimtoti and large rural and peri-urban settlements such as Umbumbulu and Nungwane — areas that are predominantly serviced by gravel roads and dirt tracks that have been washed away, making repairs impossible.
In another document authored by Msweli dated Friday, 15 April, the repair and replacement price tag for bulk water and wastewater repairs is R934-million.
The biggest item on this list is the cost of rebuilding the Tongaat Waterworks, estimated at R800-million. The Tongaat facility supplies vast swathes of Durban’s northern areas and was severely damaged by the floods. It is expected that repair work will take several months.
The actual cost of the floods to the entire province is as yet unknown, but Zikalala said during his Sunday briefing that the preliminary cost for road infrastructure damage alone was R5.6-billion.
In just one of the disruptions to supply lines in the aftermath of the floods, the country was close to facing critical fuel shortages after a key road, Bayhead Road, which runs into the Port of Durban, was severely damaged. An estimated 13,000 vehicles use this route daily.
Access to the Island View Precinct, which is occupied by oil majors, was limited, leading to fuel distribution operations slumping to just 20% of normal operations. By 14 April, an agreement was reached that allowed trucks to be diverted through the residential area, increasing distribution to 60%. Contractors worked throughout the weekend to repair access to Bayhead Road.
The department of basic education said on Monday that 630 KZN schools had been affected by the flooding and that 101 were inaccessible. Fifty-seven learners had died, one educator and one food handler had also died, while five learners were missing. Some schools would not open on Tuesday.
The number of households affected by the flooding exceeds 13,000. Just above 8,000 homes were partially destroyed, while just below 4,000 were totally destroyed. More than 40,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by the flooding.
The data show that eThekwini received the brunt of the storm damage, accounting for more than 80% of households affected (11,492), 76% of homes totally destroyed (3,000) and 90% (7,200) of the homes partially destroyed.
10,000 SANDF troops to arrive on 20 April
The director for corporate communications at the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), Brigadier General Andries Mokoena Mahapa, told Daily Maverick on Monday night that there were 200 troops on the ground in KZN, who were deployed on 13 April as an advance team. The team included doctors, engineers and air force members. Accompanying them were two medium utility helicopters, two light utility helicopters and one fixed-wing aircraft.
Another 10,000 soldiers would make their way to the technical headquarters at the Bluff military base on Wednesday, 20 April, said Mahapa. As for the order of battle (who will be doing what), Mahapa said that this would be determined when the troops reached the Bluff.
In a statement released before speaking to Daily Maverick, Mahapa said that the soldiers would render support as part of Operation Chariot “in erecting field accommodation, provisioning of fresh water with its water purification systems, and the deployment of electricians for restoring power and plumbers for restoring the water supplies in the areas that have been affected by the floods”.
The army had also pledged 31 10,000 litre water bunkers, three water provisioning systems, two water points with one-litre bottled water/plastic sachets, a platoon of electricians and plumbers, 60 16×16 tents and bedding for affected communities. DM