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Nearly a year after the floods, eThekwini villagers are still hoping for help

Nearly a year after the floods, eThekwini villagers are still hoping for help
Nokwanda Gumede’s house in Emagelekedeni village was destroyed by floods in April 2022. (Photo: Manqulo Nyakombi)

While the eThekwini Municipality says all those affected have been rehoused, Inanda families say they are being ignored.

Nearly a year after the floods which claimed the lives of more than 400 people in KwaZulu-Natal, families who lost their houses in Inanda say they have never received any assistance from the government.

Community leader Ngiphile Luthuli said she registered 46 flood victims in villages in Inanda and none of them has received help from the eThekwini Municipality or from government officials.

But eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela denies this.

GroundUp reporters visited Inanda’s ward 44 a week ago. We visited two villages, Emagelekedeni and Emantsheni Amhlophe, and a township, Emaplasini.

Luthuli said only people living in the township had been helped. She showed us five houses in the villages destroyed by floods in April 2022. She said some owners had gone to rent places elsewhere and others were living with family members.

She showed us a list of flood victims she sent to the municipality. While we were with her, she called seven flood victims to ask them if they had received any assistance from the municipality or any government officials. All seven said no.

Nokwanda Gumede is one of them. The floods destroyed a two-bedroomed house she shared with her husband and three children. The family is now renting a room in the township for R1,500 a month. Gumede is unemployed and her husband does piece jobs. She said people in the townships had been moved to community halls and then to other accommodation.

“People in villages only matter when it’s time to vote. We didn’t receive anything,” said Gumede.

We are 12 people in this house including nine children. When it rains we don’t sleep. We sit the whole night as we are scared of floods.

She showed us what used to be the family’s home. The house has to be rebuilt from the start. There was a fridge and two beds with some blankets under the fallen building.

“After I saw on television that people from townships are given shelter, I went to eThekwini Municipality to tell them that I also lost a house. The officials came here but could not reach my house because they came on a rainy day. They asked me to take pictures and send them, which I did, but nothing happened. It’s been eight months now waiting,” she said.

“In other areas we saw people being given food parcels. Some were given blankets. We didn’t get anything from our government.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: KZN floods exposed vulnerabilities in local structures and disaster response — South Africans should not forget

“Most of us are still traumatised by what has happened. The heavy rain started at night; it was dark. The back of the house fell while we were inside, water came in. We all had to stand in one corner. My husband was trying to hold us all. The kids were crying and we could hear people trying to help outside. It was a bad experience. Even today when it rains I get flashbacks of the event. Not a single person received counselling here. People saw their loved ones dying in front of them. I guess no one thought that we might need counselling,” she said.

‘No money’ to help

At Emantsheni Amhlophe, Nelson Makhathini said he had managed to only fix one room in his three-bedroomed house destroyed by floods in 2022. He is living alone in the room in the house and renting a flat bedroom for his children.

“When it rains I don’t close the door so I can easily escape if there are floods,” he said. “I can only manage to rent one room for my children as I’m currently unemployed.”

Makhatini said when he visited the KwaZulu-Natal human settlements department he was told that the government did not have money to help. The eThekwini Municipality promised to visit his house to check the damage but nothing had happened, he said.

GroundUp also found that at least two families at Emaplasini are still living in their old RDP houses that were ruined by floods.

Nokulunga Mbatha is still living in her ruined house. She said she and two sisters and their children had been moved to a community hall in April, following the floods, but had not been moved to flats when others who were in the hall were relocated.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Bereaved families still seek closure, eight months after devastating floods

“On the day that people were moved from the community hall to flats we were in Pietermaritzburg for a funeral. We received a call that people were being moved and we rushed back. When we got here the officials were still busy allocating people. Our belongings were still inside the community hall. We fetched them to stand with others but the ward councillor told us that there was no place for us, we must find another place to live. He said the fact that we were not at the community hall when he arrived means we are sorted. We had to carry our beds back to this house,” she said.

“We are 12 people in this house including nine children. When it rains we don’t sleep. We sit the whole night as we are scared of floods. I went to our ward councillor’s office many times to ask him to come see this place. He has been promising to come. We are still waiting for him,” said Mbatha.

“We are scared of living here. This is our only option. No one is working. We are relying on social grants,” she said.

The Mbatha family is still living in the house after floods washed away the foundations. (Photo: Manqulo Nyakombi)

Ward councillor Zamani Khuzwayo (DA) said he had informed the municipality about the Mbatha family and another family who had also been left behind when people were allocated flats and rooms rented by the municipality.

KZN human settlements spokesperson Mbulelo Baloyi said the municipality, through its disaster management team, not the department, was responsible for people displaced by floods.

Mayisela said the municipality had made shelter available for everyone affected by floods. Warm meals had been provided and all families affected had been moved out of the shelters in community halls to various accommodation outlets.

“Evidence is there for everyone to see,” he said. DM

First published by GroundUp.

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