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South Africa

KZN floods: How tenders for recovery are monitored, and more. We answer your questions

Community members from Tafelkop west of Durban near Marrianhill are suffering after the bridge which connects them across uMlazi river collapsed during the floods, 04 May 2022.Photo:Phumlani Thabethe

Daily Maverick’s ace KwaZulu-Natal correspondent Des Erasmus answers readers' questions on the KZN floods.

How are tenders for floods going to be monitored?

If it is deemed an emergency, as many of the projects are, then the accounting officer (municipal manager) can use Section 36 of the Supply Chain Management regulations, which falls within the Municipal Finance Management Act, to select who will carry out a particular contract.

If it is not an emergency, it will follow the normal supply chain management process. The line departments should be the first line in monitoring a contractor’s progress. They in turn must account to the respective portfolio committee chaired and managed by councillors. The department’s senior managers and the accounting officer must account to the executive committee chaired by the mayor.

However, as it stands, the eThekwini Executive Committee has not sat since April. This is problematic because eThekwini uses the collective executive committee system, unlike the City of Joburg, which has an executive mayor.

Read in Daily Maverick: Poor climate adaptation, outdated infrastructure served as catalysts for KZN floods

In the collective system, decision-making sits with the committee, not an individual, as is the case with an executive mayor. The executive committee reports to the full council and interacts directly with the municipal manager. Nevertheless, besides the usual processes described above (which have in the past proven to be riddled with corruption), the Auditor-General will be auditing flood rebuilding contracts before they are awarded (auditing usually takes place once the contracts have been allocated). This will cut down substantially on any room for corruption. The office of the Public Protector, the Auditor-General and the South African Human Rights Commission will monitor contracts, too, for what it’s worth.

How wide an area was decimated by the KZN floods?

There are 10 district municipalities and one metro (eThekwini) in KwaZulu-Natal. All 10 districts were affected to some degree. The metro was hit hardest. The MEC for cooperative governance in KZN, Sipho Hlomuka, said this week the floods had caused damage of more than R25-billion to public and private infrastructure, and that assessments were still ongoing.

When are we going to get water back in KZN?

For people living close to the King Shaka Airport in Tongaat, it could be several months. Damage in the townships of Ntuzuma, KwaMashu and Umlazi means many residents rely on water tankers, bottled water and goodwill. Water infrastructure, such as pipes and pumping stations, was severely damaged during the floods. The City has maintained that access to some areas is impossible owing to roads being washed away, and only once the roads are repaired will it be able to fully gain access to the damaged sites. According to KZN economic development MEC Ravi Pillay at a briefing on 12 May, “for about two days after the floods, 60% of people had access to water. You now have a situation where 95% have access to water.”

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What is the progress on recovery of Durban port?

Bayhead Road, a main road leading into the Port of Durban, has been repaired but there are still backlogs inside the port. About 1,300 trucks a day pass through this area. There are 52 canals that empty into the port, according to economic MEC Ravi Pillay. One can imagine the extent of the damage. For the first 24 hours after the flooding, the port was completely shut and flooded with debris.

When will the beaches be cleaned and opened?

The large deposits of debris have been cleared from Durban’s Golden Mile, but beaches remain closed because of excessive levels of E.coli, a result of rivers that have been polluted by informal settlements upstream emptying into the sea. This is not an isolated incident. eThekwini’s beaches regularly have high levels of E.coli for the same reason, even with moderate rains. Swimmers and surfers have been using the ocean, but it is not recommended. The beaches themselves still contain small amounts of debris mixed with the sand and are very uneven and dirty.

Is there positive local civil action to help?

A number of environmental lobby groups, clubs, residents’ associations, religious organisations and schools have taken part in clean-up operations, in their own areas and then along the beach and other large public areas.

How can I help?

The Solidarity Fund and Gift of the Givers. Both are independent organisations. While the provincial government did initially open a specific bank account for flood donations, the public backlash over accusations that government officials would steal the money (past behaviour tends to be a good indicator of future behaviour) has seen the government reverse canvassing the bank account. The recently established LexisNexis severe weather portal has a list of reputable charities that you can donate to. Find them here.

Read in Daily Maverick: KZN still waiting on R1-billion flood relief while stormcloud of Gumede hangs overhead

Does Durban have a qualified city engineer?

Yes. Durban has an established administration. It has dozens of qualified engineers.

How often are bridges checked by qualified engineers?

The City’s response: “Bridges are routinely inspected on a five-year cycle in accordance with the requirements of the document TMH22 (Manual for Road Asset Management) and specifically to the detail laid out in TMH19 (Manual for the Visual Assessment of Road Structures). These documents are overseen by the Committee of Transport Officials, Road Structures Sub-committee.”

Did Durban do away with gully inspectors?

The City’s response: “We do not have anyone using that work title. However, we do have Roads Inspectors.”

There’s no water in parts of KwaMashu?

The City’s response: “Since the restoration of raw water supply to the Durban Heights Water Treatment Works, most areas have had their supply restored. However, KwaMashu M section is one of the unfortunate areas that feed from the high level of the NR3 reservoir which still battles to fill due to inadequate water supply from the treatment works since production levels have not been fully restored. The production will be optimised when Aqueducts 1 and 2, which are raw water supply pipes to the Durban Heights Treatment Works, are fully reinstated. The project to reinstate these aqueducts is at advanced procurement stages.”

The non-arrival of water tankers is city-wide. In 2020/21, mayor Mxolisi Kaunda admitted that the failure to have tracking (GPS) devices inside water tankers led to them being diverted or to the illegal “selling” of water loads.

Can you name (and shame) those responsible for stormwater drainage maintenance? Had they done their jobs properly?

According to the City: “Roads and stormwater maintenance have a cyclic programme to clean them at least once in three months, but in CBD areas twice in a three-month period”.

The City’s head of water, Ednick Msweli, ultimately oversees this work. Before the flooding, the City had embarked on a five-year, multibillion-rand upgrade of its ageing and neglected water and sewerage piping. This has obviously been seriously affected by the flooding.

Will there be a multiparty commission to oversee funds and donations and stop corruption in its tracks?

Please refer to the first question about how taxpayer funds will be monitored in the restoration process. As for donations, if you don’t give them to the government, they won’t have to be overseen. Donate to reputable NGOs and churches, temples or mosques.

What is the Health Department doing about the forecast for a cholera outbreak?

No cases of cholera have yet been officially reported in KZN. The potential for waterborne diseases, however, remains high, given that many water sources are contaminated (as confirmed by MEC Sipho Hlomuka this week). This is why water tankers and bottled water are a priority, particularly for those living in rural areas.

Why in KZN (Durban area) are workers now only cleaning overgrown stormwater gullies?

The employees who do this work are often from the City’s expanded public works programme. This “department” is plagued by worker dissatisfaction and striking. It is not uncommon to see cleaning and maintenance of the city taking place on weekends, since this affords workers the opportunity to demand extra pay. The City complies.

How many eThekwini Council and provincial officials attended the ANC eThekwini electoral conference and how many were absent from work? What warnings were issued?

Everyone I spoke to said they put in leave for the day. Also, pigs fly.

Why has the KZN provincial roads network been neglected over the past 20 years to the extent that it is now highly vulnerable to collapse?

According to the government’s own internal reports, and external reports: corruption, lack of skills and lack of planning.

When will Isipingo water and electricity be restored? No help from the councillor. The community is doing a sterling job getting water to the area.

According to the City: “Electricity supply in Isipingo has been partially restored, teams are on-site working on individual faults currently outstanding. Since the restoration of water supply to the southern areas by the repair of the South Coast Augmentation pipeline, Isipingo areas have not had water supply interruption. However, due to the faulty inlet valve to the Lotus Road reservoir, some parts of the Isipingo areas have since experienced interrupted water supply as the reservoir went empty. The teams have been at the job and completion of repairs is expected by this evening [Thursday, 12 May]”.

Please send me stormwater disaster management war room pin location/address, contact person/director of operations and a contact phone number?

This would be Ednick Mseweli, who can be contacted on 083 989 0720.

Where do I apply for financial assistance as my home was destroyed by a mudslide caused by the floods?

The KZN department of human settlements announced this week that it had made R1-billion available to those who had lost homes during the floods. Obviously, you will have to go through a verification process. To get hold of the department, contact Mbulelo Baloyi on 083 320 0274. The link below is to the recently established LexisNexis portal for severe disaster relief, where you can find a list of charities that are helping.

Who is responsible for the failed stewardship of the natural infrastructure that exacerbated the floods? River banks settled, slopes cleared?

The municipal and provincial governments.

Is it safe to cross the bridges along N2 (North South)?

All bridges along the N2 are open.

Who do we call at Eskom to restore power in KZN Ramsgate? We are told to log faults with Eskom via automated messages. This system is a fail!

While not ideal, sometimes it is best to vent on Facebook or Twitter and provide the reference number.

Why does eThekwini never answer their phones, WhatsApp line or emails for water/power outages?

They are undercapacitated, poorly trained and poorly managed, as the opposition parties in the city maintain.

Will the government assist families with funeral arrangements? Is there adequate shelter available for those who lost everything?

Yes. There is a fund to assist with funeral arrangements. Avbob offered funeral services to 150 people in KZN while the municipality has also offered support to those who meet the criteria. At the end of April, there were 58 places being used as shelters. Temporary housing is being built for those who lost their homes and livelihoods.


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