Our Burning Planet


Godongwana boosts Municipal Disaster Response and Recovery grants as climate crisis takes its toll

Godongwana boosts Municipal Disaster Response and Recovery grants as climate crisis takes its toll
Dwellings built on steep slopes in Durban’s Reservoir Hills area are vulnerable to mudslides and flooding. (Photo: Delwyn Verasamy)

As South Africa grapples with the devastating effects of the climate crisis, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana has announced some relief measures.

Municipalities can breathe a small sigh of relief around protecting residents against the impacts of the climate crisis after Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) on Wednesday announced that he was adding funds to the Municipal Disaster Relief and Recovery grants.  

“In this regard, R372-million has been added to the Municipal Disaster Response Grant, while R1.2-billion has been added to the Municipal Disaster Recovery Grant, to cover the repair and rehabilitation of infrastructure damaged by flooding in February and March 2023,” Godongwana said.

“Mitigating the environmental risks posed by climate change must go hand in hand with addressing the financial and economic risks also posed by climate change. The National Treasury is making progress towards developing a disaster risk financing strategy, which will among others, enhance existing risk financing instruments.”  

Municipal Disaster Relief and Recovery grants were introduced in 2011 and 2013, respectively, for municipalities to respond to infrastructure damage and disperse relief funds. 

SA increasingly vulnerable

South Africa is in a climate-vulnerable region said to be warming at twice the global average temperature rate. The country has increasingly been facing devastating floods, droughts, extreme heat and wildfires that will only worsen while world leaders are slow to combat the climate crisis. 

The economic impact of the effects of the climate crisis will be damaging across the agricultural, fisheries, infrastructure, tourism and several other sectors. According to the G20 Climate Risk Atlas, South Africa is expected to lose 5.03% of its gross domestic product by 2050, and this is expected to increase to 13.5% by 2100 due to the effects of climate change. Investments into a low-carbon economy, however, could reduce these losses to 3.33% by 2050. 

Disastrous floods in KwaZulu-Natal last year killed more than 400 people and caused massive infrastructure damage. They were a signal of what the country can expect as the effects of the climate crisis worsen. A survey by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition found that damage to local companies alone cost R7-billion. 

As municipalities struggle to meet targets and service delivery demands, the added funds for disaster relief will provide a helping hand.


Godongwana said that dismal water service delivery is a result of the dysfunction of many municipalities. To address the challenge, he said the government was making changes to conditional grants, specifically the Urban Settlements Development Grant, the Integrated Urban Development Grant, and the Municipal Infrastructure Grant. 

“These changes include reconfiguring of grants and revising the grant conditions, to align them with the Green Drop, Blue Drop and No Drop assessments relaunched by the President as part of efforts to ramp up the performance of water service authorities,” the minister said. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Critical but stable – SA’s water quality and infrastructure rated

The Green Drop report assesses the state of wastewater systems, the Blue Drop assesses the quality of drinking water, and the No Drop report assesses how municipalities distribute drinking water. Watch reports earlier this year showed that drinking water quality and distributions had declined, with drinking water said to be in a “bad condition”. 

Dr Ferrial Adam, executive director of WaterCAN, told Daily Maverick, “The amount needed for water infrastructure requires a lot more than being planned at present. 

“It will be interesting to see how Treasury will be ‘reconfiguring grants and revising the grant conditions, to align them with the Green Drop, Blue Drop, and No Drop assessments’. Some of the Green Drop and Blue Drop assessments are volunteer municipalities. 

“We need something stronger to ensure change. Yes, we need an increased budget but with that we need working and skilled people to make the changes we need on water.

“The idea to change the conditional grants is a good thing, but the Urban Settlements Development Grant should not be left with municipalities. Treasury should prioritise paying those directly to entities like Rand Water to ensure that they are being paid.”  

As governments realise the need to combat the effects of the climate crisis and provide more funding, citizens will be better shielded against climate impacts and worsening disasters. South Africa’s climate vulnerability does, however, require funding beyond what the minister has announced. DM

Read Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement below:

Absa OBP

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