MEC for Public Works and Human Settlements Jomo Sibiya;
Executive Mayor of eThekwini Cllr. Mxolisi Kaunda;
Deputy Executive Mayor of eThekwini Cllr. Philani Mavundla;
Members of the Media;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Good Day to you all!
Let us start by welcoming all of you who are with us this afternoon, and those who are joining us via our social media platforms and the broadcast networks. This media briefing follows the ordinary sitting of the Provincial Executive Council which met on Wednesday and reflected on key strategic issues in our province.
On top of its agenda the Executive Council assessed the progress the province is making following the April and May flood disasters. We wish to commence today’s briefing by giving an update on the situation to date.
April-May 2022 Flood Update
Today marks exactly two months since the April floods wreaked havoc in five districts and eThekwini Municipality leaving thousands homeless. By all accounts the KZN floods have been described correctly as the most devastating floods in our history thus far.
As you will notice we are providing today’s update next to some of the Temporary Residential Units(TRUs) which have been built to accommodate flood victims by the Department of Human Settlements and Public Works under MEC Jomo Sibiya and eThekwini Metro led by Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda.
Earlier today, we paid a visit to a number of families who are housed in Temporary Residential Units in the eThekwini Metro in order to ascertain their living conditions, but more importantly to hear about their own lived experiences of government’s intervention following the floods.
While for many of us it is easy to speak about this disaster from the comfort of our homes and offices, the true test of its impact is in seeing and hearing from the victims and those worst affected. We speak about the damage to infrastructure which has had a major negatively affected economic operations and reversed many gains made since the democratic era.
While this damage is important to estimate, we are unable to count the full impact this period has had on the people, families and communities in KwaZulu-Natal.
Impact of the damage to date
Ladies and Gentlemen, current indications are that the floods have affected a total of 85280 people with 461 fatalities. Sadly, we still have 23 unidentified bodies with DNAs not collected. A total of 87 people are still reported missing with 6895 being homeless and 50 injured. In all, a total of 27069 households were affected with 8584 houses totally destroyed and 13536 partially destroyed.
During the disasters we rescued a total of 249 people alive through our search and rescue operations. We currently still have on the ground a total of 3941 teams involving the SANDF, SAPS, Disaster Teams and Road Traffic Inspectorate teams involved in the sectoral responses to this disaster.
The demobilisation especially in the SANDF will happen in a phased manner, but the specialised teams including the engineers and others will remain behind. In terms of the missing persons, while we are continuing with the searches, the Department of Justice and Correctional Services is being engaged on the process of presumption of death where it is proven that we have no prospects to find the missing persons alive. This will be used as the last resort to assist families to find closure.
Cost of the damage
The cost of the flood damage is officially at R25billionaffecting mainly infrastructure networks, Manufacturing and Agriculture. The impact of the floods on eThekwini has been massive and we believe that while we attend to the entire province, we should speed up our response in eThekwini because this is where we are to make the greatest impact on reversing the destruction. In particular settlements located close to rivers and waterways, in our coastal areas, informal settlements were among the most affected, especially those located in poor terrain.
We have learnt through a joint study by the eThekwini Metroand the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research that 1.3million people live within the flood line in the city. We are also told that 33.2% or more than a quarter of all dwellings in the city are informal structures and this excludes rural dwellings. This poses a major challenge to the recovery programme and calls for a long-term approach which will protect our communities from such emergencies in future.
Progress on Rehabilitation and Reconstruction
We are pleased to report that major progress has been made to get the province fully back on its feet with us now entering the second stage which is to restore infrastructure and revive the economy. While immediate humanitarian relief has been secured, we are certain that all affected persons are safe and that their basic needs have been met.
The focus has now shifted to stabilisation, rehousing people who have lost homes and restoring provision of services as well as rehabilitation and reconstruction (Building Back Better) programme. This will involve the construction and repair of major infrastructure. It will also involve the construction of permanent houses in suitably located areas and measures to protect the residents of these areas from such adverse weather events in the future.
Progress on TRU’s and Support to those housed in Temporary Shelters
As we continue with the construction of Temporary Units, our focus is to accommodate more than 4 396 families that were accommodated in halls, churches, schools. We have been able to make remarkable progress working across spheres and with the support and leadership of the entire national governmentled by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
At least 206 TRUs have been completed to date and there is progress in identifying land for further building. So far 4 Properties under Tongaat Hullet have been identified. Of the land identified in other parts of the province 258 land parcels (41.88%) do not have geophysical constraints, with 5.8%) out of these being in eThekwini.
The availability of land parcels that are suitable for thebuilding of TRUs has been a major constraint to the finalisation of the challenge of accommodation and hasdelayed the building of TRUs and the provision of permanent structures as part of the recovery. Provincial government is concerned about people continuing to live in shelters as this isnot only stagnating the lives of victims, but our social cluster departmental budgets are now getting exhausted. The priority is to get our communities back on their feet and for them touse their skills and talents to eke out a living away from the shelters.
Ladies and Gentlemen, if there is one thing that we are learning from this disaster, it is that our laws and by-laws need to be sharpened to facilitate a speed response to emergencies. We are noting that by-laws still require compliance and adherence even in a disaster as if a person wants to build a house under normal circumstances. This should change and so should the applications and funding approvals process for immediate relief, as well as the sourcing of land.
We are also experiencing a situation where in sharp contrast topublic pronouncements to be part of the solution to the disaster, owners are doubling and trebling land prices whenapproached by government for the re-housing of flood victims. Consequently, land has become a huge stumbling block to the disaster intervention. We need to debate ifexisting laws and regulations should not for the future during disasters be amended to include the expropriation of landthrough a swift process. Our laws and by-laws are meant to facilitate recovery and should not in emergencies and life and death situations serve as an impediment.
We require land that is about five kilometres from social amenities like schools for flood victims and next to economic opportunities and workplaces. Government has also noted with concern resistance from some established communities who are opposed to the resettling of flood victims on Government-owned land next to their properties, under what is called “NIMBY” or the “Not in My Backyard” syndrome. Yet these are communities that attempted to occupy moral high ground claiming to be in solidarity with the homeless flood victims. The reality is that government cannot build TRUs on the very unsuitable land that saw homes being washed away in the floods.
Update on Water and Electricity Restoration ILEMBE AND ETHEKWINI
Ladies and Gentlemen, while the restoration of water and electricity has reached over 90% overall, there remains a number of hotspots in the province.
In Ilembe, KwaDukuza Water has no supply to the power generation plant due to plant repairs and is affecting Shakaville and Lindelani. Mbozamo is still on the operating rule of closing water at night.
With regard to Water in eThekwini, the Inner West region is almost 90% restored; Outer West Supply has improved from 45% to 95%; Central Region has improved from 45% to 85 %; South Region has improved from 15% to 85% while the North Region supply has moved from 15% to 60%
The eThekwini Municipality has made available 20 Water Tankers which are serving the affected areas, while 48 Static Tankers have been installed in strategic points for self-collection of water. In total, eThekwini has deployed 190 Water Tankers to supply water around the city. We are forever grateful to the Gift of the Givers Foundation which hasdonated 14 boreholes of which 11 have already been drilled.
Meanwhile, the construction and restoration work on the uThongathi Water Treatment Works is expected to take up to 4months with completion in September this year. A budget of at least R30million has been allocated.
Economic Support to business (EDTEA)
Ladies and Gentlemen, tourism was one of the most affectedsectors during the floods which took place ahead of the Easter weekend when many establishments were expecting a bumper season since the advent of Covid-19. In that regard, the floods dealt a double blow to the sector and we are now in the process of recovering from that.
With regard to the development of routes, our recovery planshave been severely hampered by the recent closing down of British Airways Kulula and with limited capacity available this may result in higher prices for travellers. We are howeverpleased that the Department of Economic DevelopmentTourism and Environmental Affairs, under MEC Ravi Pillay now reports that hotel occupancy rates are gaining traction and recovering from by the recent floods. Water Challenges at King Shaka International Airport have been addressed and long- term plans are in place to increase water supply through boreholes to insure against any future emergency.
Repairs are underway to key attractions such as the Mandela Capture site, the two world Heritage Sites, Howick Falls and the beachfront as part of the recovery and reconstruction process. The Bayhead road repairs are progressing very well with the execution of earthworks now in full throttle. Meanwhile, Bluff Road is being used for fuel cargo in the interim, and we are pleased to note that the Container Terminal has addressed its entire backlog and has released100% of the delayed imported cargo.
With regard to rail infrastructure, PRASA has announcedplans to resume the Umlazi service line on 01 September andthe KwaMashu line on 09 September 2022. These measures will come as a major relief to commuters who rely on rail as a cheap mass mover.
Cell phone networks Vodacom and MTN which were affected by the floods report that over 80% of damaged infrastructure is now back in operation. The telecommunications sector has however raised its concerns about ongoing vandalisation of its infrastructure and the repair of roads and electricity supply to speed up the restoration of communication services.
On support for business, EDTEA is leading the provision of funding to 394 businesses that have applied for assistancewhich is currently valued at R196million. The applications are mainly from companies in the agriculture, services and manufacturing sectors.
Damage to KZN transport infrastructure from the recent floods amounts to R6 billion including the M4 and R102. The SANDF is implementing Bailey Bridges while the KZN Department of Transport is leading a massive project called Valamapotholes (patching potholes programme) working together with municipalities.
In the medium term 730 key projects have been approved throughout the province to be implemented through emergency procurement, which includes the closure of potholes and repairs to damaged roads. KZN DOT has submitted 49 bridge sites to National Department of Public Works for consideration for the bailey bridges programme.
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is assisting households and farmers with regard to soil testing services, provision of lime, fertilizers, tools, fencing, water tanks, re-gravelling and repairing damaged roads and the construction of culverts. The objective is to resuscitate livestock operations on affected farms and support sugar cane and the implementation of biosecurity measures.
Update on Donations
Ladies and Gentlemen, as at 01 June our donor account had R3 625 960 in total, with R100 000 specifically earmarked by the donor for the Department of Health. An amount of R3 million is set aside for education mainly the fixing of four schools while R500 000 from the government of QATAR will be allocated to the Department of Social Development. Wewish to acknowledge the generous donations we have received from major donors such as the government of the United Arab Emirates, Spirit Ambassadors International Church and Sasol. Harmony Gold this week pledged an amount to the tune of R600 000 which is not yet in the donoraccount as well as relief suppliers donated by Harmony Gold employees in solidarity with the flood victims. We wish to thank all the donors for lending a helping hand to the people in their time of need.
Financing the Disaster
We wish to take the opportunity to clarify the processes involved in accessing the funds which have been earmarked for the disaster by National Treasury. While National Treasury has indicated that short term immediate humanitarian relief is available to the tune of R1. 018billion, it is important to clarify that these funds are earmarked for disasters that may occur in the whole country during the 2022/23 financial year.
We wish to confirm that there is no outstanding applicationfrom the province either for short-term humanitarian support or the long-term reconstruction. All the applications have been submitted to National Government via the National Disaster Management Centre. The dates for these submissionsare as follows:
▪9th of May for all damaged infrastructure in the province.
▪15th of May an application was submitted to access the R1billion for emergency relief.
In summary, our provincial Disaster Management Centre has made an application to the National Disaster Management Centre for short term humanitarian relief support to the tune of R1.00billion. Further to this the province has made a request for R12.656billion for the municipal response and R5.157billion for the provincial response. This brings the totalapplied to R17. 813billion for KZN sector departments and municipal damages.
The province has received acknowledgements to this effect, with independent verification of our application having been done by the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA) and the Department of Water and Sanitation specialist engineers.
We believe that National Government is currently processing these requests and we will be hearing from them in the coming days. In the meantime, all provincial government departments are reprioritizing their budgets in order to aid the funding of the recovery process. In aggregate terms, our provincial departments are planning to reprioritise R3.652billion towards the disaster, with these funds coming mainly from conditional grants under the Departments of Transport and Human Settlements. Further non- infrastructure related funding including support to business is coming from EDTEA.
Another issue of concern is that the grant framework for emergency funding does not allow the release of funding for properties that are insured. It has transpired that most municipalities have insurance cover, however, their covers are not sufficient and comprehensive enough for the magnitude of the disaster we have just experienced. The implications arethat if government applies the existing principles of the grant framework, municipalities will not be able to adequately fix all the damage that has been incurred. It is against this background that we are raising the need for a review of the legislative regime of disasters.
Ensuring funds are utilised fruitfully
Ladies and Gentlemen, we continue to emphasize the importance of using the funds properly and without abuse or misspending. Our internal audit is working with the Auditor General’s Office to conduct audits at the Department of Education, Department of Transport, Department of Human Settlements, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairsand the Department of Social Development with physical verification of TRUs having also commenced.
Cabinet Approves EThekwini Metro Procurement of Energy supply from IPPs
As we deal with the long-term response to the climate changethe Provincial Executive Council this week endorsed theeThekwini Metro Council’s aspiration to procure new generation capacity from Independent Power Producers in line with the determination of the Department of MineralResources and Energy.
In terms of these plans, eThekwini aims to achieve at least 15% of heating requirements using hydrogen as feedstock by 2030. Furthermore, the city wants to achieve industrial transformation of 15% in petrochemical, pulp & paper, cement, iron smelters, agriculture and gas imports infrastructure by 2030.
With regard to the Transport Transition, eThekwini aims to increase the uptake of Electric Vehicles by 6% annually from 2025 to 2050, and to decarbonize transport by introducing fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and gas.
The Power Transition will see the achievement by 2030 of the goal of only 40% reliance on the national grid, with the objective of attaining 100% penetration of alternate energyreached by 2050.
The City of eThekwini is home to the majority of ourindustry, but also is also home to the greatest population of KwaZulu-Natal. As the city adopts green and other alternate sources of energy, it will certainly serve as a turning point to bring on board the majority of the people of KwaZulu-Natalin this critical transition.
Cabinet approves New Board for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife
The Provincial Executive Council approved the appointment of the new Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Board under the Chairpersonship of Ms Lydia Johnson. Ms Johnson is a seasoned community activist and leader who has had a distinguished career as Mayor, Speaker of the Legislature and MEC for Public Works as well as Agriculture in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal. Ms Johnson and her leadership collective are tasked with repositioning Ezemvelo as a major tourist drawcard in the province and as a custodian of our wildlife and biodiversity. One of the board’s major tasks is also to fight crime especially the decimation of rhinos and other animals as well as the development and promotion of Ecotourism facilities in the province.
In closing, we would like to extend the province’s sinceregratitude to all the individuals, public and private institutions, business, the faith-based community, traditional leaders, NGOs, donors as well as local and international diplomats who have assisted our province in its time of need.
We again wish to thank the 3273 members of the SANDF who have been deployed in the province alongside the 4415 SAPS who are conducting search and rescue operations and helped find the victims of the floods and brought closure for many families.
We continue to offer our sincere condolences to those who have suffered such personal and immeasurable losses and have undergone the traumatic experiences of pain, injury and loss. Our commitment to the people of this province is that in their honour we will never rest until we have returned the situation to normal. Our province was battered, but it is not broken.
With your assistance and valued support, KwaZulu-Natal isrising, and its people will be at the centre of a new spirit of hope and revival that now envelopes our great province. Let us rise together with all our friends here in South Africa, in this great continent of ours, and in the rest of the world.
We look forward to welcoming you in great numbers to our world- famous attractions such as the Drakensberg-Ukhahlamba, KZN Wildlife, the iSimangaliso World Heritage Site, the Durban July, Comrades Marathon, Mandela Capture Site, or indeed our golden coast.
Let us work together to Grow KwaZulu-Natal.
God Bless the people of KwaZulu-Natal.
I Thank You