From The Union Buildings
It has been almost two months since heavy flooding wreaked havoc across parts of KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and North West, causing extensive loss of life and damage to property and infrastructure.
I recently visited eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal to meet with business people in the city to lend our support to their efforts to restore their operations.
When this natural disaster struck, there was some concern that authorities had neither the capacity nor the will to respond efficiently and effectively to the dire situation of those who had lost everything.
Having paid my second visit to the city since the floods, I am clear that this concern was misplaced. In KwaZulu-Natal, as in the Eastern Cape and North West, all stakeholders have been hard at work to recover from these tragic events.
The National Disaster Management Centre has been coordinating all spheres of government in their efforts to provide humanitarian relief to the many households that have been affected. It has been pleasing to see the non-governmental organisation community, business and relief organisations joining in working with government to provide much-needed relief assistance.
All these stakeholders have provided food, clothes, blankets, dignity packs and school uniforms to vulnerable families to meet their basic needs. Sheltering services are currently being provided to over 7,000 people in the four most affected districts in KwaZulu-Natal. Work has started to build temporary residences for affected families on state-owned land parcels have been identified in KwaZulu-Natal for possible resettlement.
The Departments of Home Affairs, Health and Social Development have been assisting affected communities to access important services. For example, mobile units are helping those who lost critical documents in the floods to get new smart IDs and to re-issue birth certificates. Mobile health services, including COVID-19 vaccinations, are being provided to people in areas where the physical facilities are not yet fully operational. Mechanisms are in place to pay out the social grants of affected individuals.
Mobile classrooms are being procured so that learning and teaching should not be interrupted for longer than necessary in flood-affected schools.
Work is underway to repair damaged waste water treatment works, pump-stations and reticulation. Damaged roads are being repaired. Eighteen new bridges are planned as part of the Welisizwe Rural Bridges programme.
There has also been considerable progress in fixing key infrastructure supporting the Port of Durban. Given the importance of the port to the national and continental economy, port traffic has been restored, terminal operations are back at full capacity and work to repair damaged rail infrastructure is underway.
Additional measures are being put in place to provide financial support to both big and small businesses in distress. This is needed as a matter of urgency to ensure that businesses can stay afloat and that jobs can be sustained.
At different times in our democracy’s history, we have been confronted with events and circumstances that have severely tested the resolve of our people and the effectiveness of our institutions.
We have seen extraordinary solidarity and support to affected communities in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and North West. Municipal and provincial governments have been working closely with national departments and agencies to enable people to rebuild their lives and to get local economic activity back on track.
They have been working with all stakeholders in all of these areas to ensure that we effectively coordinate recovery efforts and that we plan and rebuild in a manner that is more resilient to extreme events of this nature in the future.
The perseverance of affected communities, their determination to succeed and their ability to rally together in times of crisis has been an inspiration. We salute all those who have been part of the effort to help the people of the affected provinces.
As government, we are mobilising all available resources and undertaking every effort to ensure that, as we rebuild, no-one is left behind