Johannesburg: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a national state of disaster and announced a series of measures in response to the rain-triggered devastating floods that have killed over 400 people, left dozens missing, and displaced over 40,000 people across the coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).
The fresh disaster declaration comes just a fortnight after Ramaphosa announced the end of one that had been in place for over two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The floods occurred after four days of extraordinary torrential rain, which Ramaphosa claimed could be related to climate change on Monday.
Although a provincial state of calamity was proclaimed in KZN last week, the president stated that the flooding has interrupted fuel lines and food deliveries the entire country from Durban, which is South Africa’s main port of entry and the largest on the African continent.
Rescuers looked for dozens of individuals who remained missing in KZN after recent heavy rains created floods and mudslides that killed over 400 people.
The floods have displaced thousands of people, disrupted power and water services, and hampered operations at one of Africa’s largest ports, Durban.
According to Ramaphosa, there are also indications that severe weather conditions are on their way to other provinces.
This had resulted in the national condition of calamity, he claimed.
Numerous roads and bridges have also been devastated, and the defence force has been entrusted with assisting in the major infrastructure reconstruction.
Ramaphosa stated that declaring a national state of disaster would allow for the mobilisation of additional resources, capabilities, and technical expertise in providing relief, recovery, and rehabilitation to affected areas, with national, provincial, and local governments collaborating to address the challenges.
He announced a three-pronged response to the calamity.
“First and foremost, we will prioritise emergency humanitarian help, ensuring that all affected individuals are safe and that their basic needs are satisfied.” Second, we will concentrate on stabilisation and recovery, rehousing individuals who have lost their homes and restoring service provision. Third, Ramaphosa remarked, “We will focus on reconstruction and reconstructing as many locations as have been destroyed and devastated, including infrastructure.”
I have given the South African National Defence Force permission to bring in additional men and water restoration, he added.
The president stated that preparations were being made to offer temporary dwelling units, and building of these temporary shelters is planned to begin by the end of this week.
“Financial help is being made available through a voucher scheme to assist people in rebuilding partially damaged properties.” According to him, a national team of project managers and engineers has been dispatched to the province to survey the damage and provide advice on rebuilding.
Ramaphosa announced the immediate deployment of a billion rand from the Treasury for this purpose, saying a wide range of private-sector organisations and individuals with specialist expertise would be used to ensure that the funds are not misused or stolen, as had happened with emergency funding during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still being uncovered.
There can be no place for any kind of corruption, fraud, or mismanagement. We are bringing together diverse stakeholders to be part of an oversight framework to guarantee that all funds granted to respond to this tragedy are correctly accounted for and that the state obtains value for money, based on our experience with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are determined that there must be transparency and accountability as projects are costed and implemented, as well as how resources are allocated from the start; not after money has been wasted or stolen,” Ramaphosa said.
The president’s nationwide address came as aid organisations from across the country hurried to provide water, food, and clothing to thousands of people in KZN, with many areas accessible only by helicopter.