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All hands on deck, says Dlamini-Zuma after SA’s 'worst' floods

19 April 2022 - 14:19
Part of Caversham Road in Pinetown was washed away on April 12 2022.
Part of Caversham Road in Pinetown was washed away on April 12 2022.
Image: Gallo Images/Darren Stewart

The recent devastating floods in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape are the “worst floods we have ever seen in living memory”, co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Tuesday, 

KwaZulu-Natal had between 300 and 400mm of rain over a 24-hour period, which was a rare occurrence even in the wettest months, she said.

“In Durban for instance, in February, which is the wettest month, we normally get about 102mm of rain in the whole month. April is not even the wettest month, but that’s what happened,” she said.

Dlamini-Zuma said this had been an indication of climate change which scientists had previously warned the government about.

“Scientists have been telling us that the eastern part of the country is going to be wetter and will have frequent floods, the western part of the country is going to be drier and will have frequent drought and maybe we thought it is something that was in the distant future. But if we look at what happened just over the last five years in KZN, each flood gets worse than the previous one.

“Clearly climate change is with us and we are beginning to feel the effects.”

The floods have left a trail of destruction, claiming more than 400 lives and destroying more than 4,000 homes, schools and critical infrastructure. President Cyril Ramaphosa initially declared a provincial state of disaster in KwaZulu-Natal. On Monday, he announced the reclassification to a national state of disaster.

Explaining this, Dlamini-Zuma said floods had taken place in more than one province and their effect would be felt across the country.

“The impact of these floods are well beyond the province and so it became very important that the national government comes on board. The reclassification from a provincial to a national disaster was then followed by the declaration of the  state of the nation disaster. 

“The declaration, in a way, gives hopes and also is a vessel for co-ordination and rallying the entire nation, government and also international support. It means that the primary responsibility to co-ordinate and manage the disaster is now assigned to the national sphere of government,” she said.

Dlamini-Zuma said the reclassification was an indication of the government’s commitment to implement recovery and reconstruction plans in a holistic manner as all spheres would be working together.     

Rebuilding in the affected areas should now meet proper urban planning policies, she said.

The minister said this had been a season of darkness and winter of despair. “But at the same time, it is also the season of light, spring and hope because we have to be hopeful, committed and determined to deal with this.

“As we build back, we should be building back better. Nobody should build back in the river banks, in flood [plains] and also in some of the areas which are geographically not right for residential areas. We must build better,” she said.

Dlamini-Zuma has gazetted regulations for the national state of disaster, which are expected to be in place for three months. However, if a need arose, it could be terminated early or extended, she said.  

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