As 2022 draws to a close, there can be no doubt that this was indeed an extremely hard year for South Africans, and citizens around the world. We reflect, amongst others, on how the reality of climate change has started to make its impact felt on our lives. In April 2022 as South Africans were still grappling with the process of rebuilding livelihoods after COVID-19 and the ravages of the global pandemic, torrential rainfall caused massive floods which had a devastating impact on communities countrywide with the KwaZulu-Natal province severely affected. Sadly, lives and livelihoods were tragically lost and infrastructure destroyed across the province. Worst of all was the displacement of over 8000 families by the floodwaters in KwaZulu-Natal. All district municipalities were affected, with Ugu, King Cetshwayo, UMgungundlovu, KwaDukuza, Msunduzi, Ilembe and the e-Thekweni, municipalities being worst hit.
Under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa, a national response was initiated and emergency delegations instituted to fast track relief efforts. This response focussed on immediate humanitarian relief efforts; efforts to stabilise and recover all affected areas of society and the economy, as well as rehabilitation and reconstruction measures.
“It is without doubt that this was one of the most devastating natural disasters in the life of our young democracy. The damage was a shock to us all and made us alive to just how we will need to mitigate all we do to be resistant to climate change”, said the Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele. Gungubele added, “What we have learnt from the monitoring and evaluation work carried out by government consistently since the disaster, is that significantly more work is needed across all spheres of government to strengthen and improve our disaster management efforts. We cannot deny that our response times and efforts need improvement in various areas, and thank communities for their patience in working with government to get to where we are now. The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, working with the National Disaster Management Centre under COGTA, have assessed our disaster management protocols and are putting in place better measures to address things including rapid yet accountable procurement measures when needed in times of disaster.”
The major task in this disaster was in settling those who lost their homes to the floodwaters into safe interim accommodation in halls, community centres and other safe shelters and thereafter settling them into more suitable accommodation while new accommodation is being finalised.
As a nation, and especially at this time of the holiday season, our hearts continue to go out to those who lost loved ones during the floods this year and also to those who have experienced such disruption of their lives.
It is however with great joy that government affirms the work done by many publicly elected representatives and officials in fulfilling the promise made to relocate all families to new and more acceptable accommodation before Christmas 2022! In this regard a special word of appreciation is given to the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Ms Nomusa Dube-Ncube and her team for the successful relocation of all remaining families from mass care centres, especially in the e-Thekweni Metropolitan Municipality. “The efforts of Premier Dube-Ncube and MEC for Human Settlements Dr Mahlaba, as well as the Mayor of e-Thekweni Cllr Mxolisi Kaunda as well as Mayors across the province and all their staff, make us proud during this season of goodwill. It is in giving and serving others that the life and moral fibre of a nation is strengthened”, added the Minister in the Presidency. In affirming these efforts, government similarly extends its deep gratitude to the many organisations, Communities of Faith, NGOs, community based organisations and individual South Africans, as well as our foreign friends who in the true spirit of Ubuntu, rallied efforts of relief and support to those who needed them the most. We also extend deep and sincere appreciation to other social partners including business and labour as well as the Traditional Leaders of the KZN province who mobilised resources to bring much needed relief, as well as to our Social Workers who worked tirelessly often under trying circumstances to bring counselling to those grieving and in need of emotional support.
In the Intermediate phase people were provided with alternative accommodation and some basic needs in different areas such as community halls and churches across affected districts.
In ensuring that the Stabilisation phase became possible, the National Department of Human Settlement availed R325 764 000,00 from the Provincial Emergency Housing Grant for the provision of Emergency Housing solutions. From this grant, 1731 Temporary Residential units were built and handed over to beneficiaries, ten (10) Transitional Emergency accommodation sites have been provided, a total of 493 families received building material supply, and the process of building permanent housing is still continuing. There were 135 Mass Care Centres in affected districts and by the 24th December 2022, all of them were closed and families relocated to temporary units and Transitional Emergency Accommodation.
For the Rehabilitation phase (Long Term Infrastructure Projects), government is building permanent housing structures for displaced families, counselling is also being provided to all families, while bridges and corroded roads, much of which has been restored, will be fixed over time and as budgets allow. Government will also ensure that people residing in flood prone areas are relocated.
Government appeals to all social partners to work together in rolling out public education about the dangers of building homes on hazard prone areas.
On the 23rd and 24th December 2022, under the leadership of the Premier Dube-Ncube and Mayor Kaunda, a Christmas Party was hosted for families who were relocated to Crystal Valley, Astra Building and Pinetown Student Accommodation which is also part of the families’ accommodation facilities also supported by the MEC for Social Development Ms Nonhlanhla Khoza. On the 27th December 2022, a Christmas Party was hosted at the Msunduzi Local Municipality for the families which were accommodated at Truro Community Hall in Pietermaritzburg with the support of the District Mayor Cllr Mzi Zuma.
As we are still in the rainy season, we are encouraging people to be vigilant. Please follow social media, announcements by your Ward Counsellors and Amakhosi, and your local media houses for all weather alerts from the South African Weather Services. Communities are again urged to avoid crossing high or fast flowing rivers and streams as these are extremely dangerous.
“As we draw to the end of 2022, this milestone of successfully closing mass care centres and bringing some cheer to those in distress, makes me believe that as a nation we can overcome some of the other ills our society faces and which we have seen over this holiday season – racism; intolerance and impatience on roads when driving; inadequate care and protection of vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly; excessive abuse of alcohol and the scourge of GBVF. Our nation can triumph over these ills if we harness the values of social solidarity, nationhood and love for our fellow being”, concluded Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of The Presidency: Republic of South Africa.