The Ad Hoc Joint Committee on Flood Disaster Relief and Recovery was briefed yesterday by the departments of Social Development, Transport, Small Business Development and Public Enterprises on progress in the provision of assistance to the provinces and municipalities recovering from the April flood disaster.

Overall, the committee was disappointed with the level of detail in the Department of Social Development’s report. In addition, the committee was of the view that much more still needs to be done for the flood victims, as many of them in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) are still living in unacceptable conditions in temporary accommodation.

Some of the halls are overcrowded and poorly supplied with bedding, forcing some people to sleep on the floor. Furthermore, women and girls and vulnerable to all forms of gender-based violence in these places. The committee also highlighted the poor provision of food, water and sanitation in the halls.

In addition, children in the halls are not receiving an education, which makes them the worst affected victims of the floods, said Ms Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, a committee Member and the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education. She was heartbroken to note that children of the floods victims’ families have lost education, which is their last hope for the future.

“We are calling on the department to ensure that in its support to the victims, support towards education of children is prioritised,” said Ms Mbinqo-Gigaba. “We should not allow the future of children to go with the April floods.”

Meanwhile, the committee told Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu that it is unacceptable that four months after the disaster people still live in halls and temporary shelters in KZN. Ms Zulu reported that under the auspices of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), 9 520 social relief of distress vouchers worth R1 980 per person have been distributed in KZN. This cost the state R16.5 million.

SASSA has also provided 898 blankets and 888 mattresses, 676 dignity packs for people housed in shelters and serviced about 72 shelters overall, which cost approximately R8.4 million. International donors, nongovernmental organisations and private companies continue to provide assistance to victims. The committee called for these efforts to be coordinated to ensure that their impact is enhanced.

The committee was also dissatisfied with the slow delivery of temporary residential units (TRUs) and called on the Department of Human Settlements to accelerate the provision of TRUs as a temporary measure. The co-Chairs of the committee, Mr Cedric Frolick and Mr Jomo Nyambi, told the department that the committee will visit the affected provinces in the forthcoming weeks to compare what the department has reported with what it finds on the ground.

While welcoming the detail in the Department of Transport’s report on KwaZulu-Natal, the committee was disappointed with the contents of the reporting on the Eastern Cape and North West provinces. It requested a detailed report on the department’s interventions in these provinces in due course.

The committee was also dissatisfied with the lack of detail in the Department of Small Business Development’s report on the disbursement of relief funds to beneficiaries. There was a concern that this lack of detail might lead to marginalised people not benefiting from the relief funds, as happened in the case of Covid-19. There was also a concern that applications for relief funds only opened in July, four months after the April floods. This reflects the lack of urgency in responding to the declaration of a national state of disaster.

The committee was encouraged with the report from the Department of Public Enterprises that the Port of Durban has been restored to full functionality, which has enabled the country to reconnect to the international trade economy.

From Eskom’s report, the committee learnt that the impact of the flooding was felt largely in eThekwini municipality in KZN, with isolated cases involving Eskom customers on the South and North coasts. In Ugu Municipality, water and sanitation pump stations were assessed and they will be removed from the load shedding schedules due to the importance of the infrastructure.

 In Ray Nyokeni Municipality, also in KZN, the committee heard that Eskom technicians have been assisting the municipality with repairs to various cable faults. In Illembe Municipality, Eskom engineers assisted with the assessment of damage to two wastewater plants in Stanger and Sundumbili.

Briefings will continue today, with briefings from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

Mava Lukani
12 August 2022