STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA ON THE DECLARATION OF A NATIONAL STATE OF DISASTER TO RESPOND TO WIDESPREAD FLOODING UNION BUILDINGS, TSHWANE

18 APRIL 2022

My Fellow South Africans,

Over the last week, communities along parts of our eastern coast have been devastated by catastrophic flooding. On the 11th and 12th of April, parts of KwaZulu-Natal received between 200 and 400 mm of rainfall in a 24 hour period.

All parts of the province were affected by the rainfall, with the entire Ethekwini metro and the districts of iLembe, Ugu, King Cetshwayo and uMgungundlovu being most affected.

Heavy rainfall and flooding have also been experienced in the Eastern Cape, particularly in the districts of Alfred Nzo, Joe Gqabi and OR Tambo, where roads, bridges and houses have been
extensively damaged, especially in the Port St Johns’ area.

To date, a total of 443 people are known to have lost their lives in KwaZulu-Natal. Approximately 48 people are missing or unaccounted for.

Last week, I and a number of Ministers, accompanied by Premier Sihle Zikalala and MECs, as well as the Executive Mayor and councillors, visited several affected families. They told us heart-breaking stories about children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents and neighbours being swept away as their homes crumbled under the pressure of the flood waters.

There are few words of comfort that can ease the anguish and the torment of those people who have lost loved ones. On the other side of the country, the community of Langa is counting the cost of a devastating fire, which destroyed about 300 homes and displaced around 1,000 people.

We are working with the City of Cape Town to provide shelter and relief to the affected families.

Tonight, we are a nation united in our grief.

We are a nation united in our determination to assist those who have lost their homes and possessions, and who are in desperate need of food, water and shelter.

The rains of the last week have caused extensive damage to houses, businesses, roads, bridges and water, electricity, rail and telecommunications infrastructure.

The flooding has disrupted fuel and food supplies.Areas located close to rivers and waterways – particularly informal settlements – were severely affected and many dwellings were swept away.
Nearly 4,000 homes have been completely destroyed and over 8,300 homes have been partially damaged.

It is estimated that more than 40,000 people have been displaced by these floods. This is a humanitarian disaster that calls for a massive and urgent relief effort.

The lives, health and well-being of thousands of people are still at risk.

The floods have caused great economic and social damage. The Port of Durban – which is one of the largest and busiest shipping terminals on the continent and which is vital to our country’s economy – has been severely affected.

Access to the port has been disrupted by extensive damaged to the Bayhead Road, which links to the Durban Port Operations to the rest of the country.

This route handles 13,000 heavy vehicles per day.The damage caused to businesses in the area have not been fully quantified, but assessments so far suggest that the Ethekwini Metro accounts for nearly half of all the reported damage.

There has also been extensive damage to public infrastructure, including schools, health facilities, police stations and magistrates’ courts.

It is estimated that over 270,000 learners have been affected.
Over 600 schools have been damaged. Sixteen of these schools cannot be accessed due to damage to connecting roads and bridges.

We are saddened by the reports that a number of learners and at least one educator have died. Sixty-six public health care facilities have been affected, although there has been minimal disruption to health services in most affected districts.

Extensive work is underway to restore basic services – such as water, electricity, sanitation and waste removal – to various areas in the province.

These efforts are being hampered by to damage to main supply systems and the inaccessibility of some areas.

To ensure an effective response to these tragic events, the National Disaster Management Centre last week classified the flooding as a provincial disaster.

This was followed by the declaration of the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal to invoke extraordinary measures to deal with the situation.

However, given the extent and impact of the floods, the designation of a provincial state of disaster is inadequate to deal with the scale of the emergency and the required reconstruction and rehabilitation measures and responses.

The significance of the Port of Durban and related infrastructure for the effective operation of the country’s economy means that this disaster has implications far beyond the province of KwaZuluNatal.

With the heavy rains and flooding in the Eastern Cape and indications from the South African Weather Service that the North West and Free State may also be affected by bad weather, it is clear that there are other areas of the country that need emergency intervention.

Cabinet therefore met in a special session last night and decided to declare a national state of disaster.

The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs will gazette the declaration. This is to ensure an effective response across all spheres of government to the extreme weather events that have occurred in several parts of the country.

The primary responsibility to coordinate and manage the disaster is assigned to the national sphere of government, working closely together with provincial governments and municipalities.

It enables the mobilisation of more resources, capabilities and technical expertise in providing relief, recovery and rehabilitation to affected communities.

We will be responding to this disaster in three phases:
First, we will focus on immediate humanitarian relief, ensuring that all affected persons are safe and that their basic needs are met.

Second, we will focus on stabilisation and recovery, rehousing people who have lost homes and
restoring provision of services.

Third, we will focus on reconstruction and rebuilding.

This will not only involve the construction and repair of major infrastructure.

It will also involve the construction of houses in suitably-located areas and measures to protect the residents of these areas from such adverse weather events in the future.

The Diplomatic Informer
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