South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday revealed that the government is mobilizing substantial funding to help recovery from recent catastrophic floods in three provinces, including the worst-hit KwaZulu-Natal, while the country’s fiscal environment is “severely constrained.”
The country has to provide support and rebuild infrastructure while at the same time “sustaining expenditure measures in support of the reconstruction and recovery”, as it is still counting the cost of the COVID-19 pandemic and the public unrest last July, Ramaphosa told a joint sitting of the parliament about the floods, where he called on the solidarity among different political parties for the people.
Shortly before the president addressing the parliament, lawmakers observed a moment of silence for those who were killed in the floods.
Tuesday’s figures showed at least 435 people have been killed and 54 people are still missing in KwaZulu-Natal due to the deluge caused by heavy rainfall from April 8-13 on the province’s coastal parts. Roads, bridges and over 5,700 houses were completely destroyed and nearly 10,000 houses were partially damaged, and around 630 schools have been affected and over 100 schools are not accessible at present, according to the figures.
Parts of Eastern Cape Province also experienced flooding, where two people were killed and three people were injured and around 1,000 people were affected by the destruction of houses and other losses. In inland North West Province, a total of 1,535 houses were damaged by heavy rainfall.
Ramaphosa told the parliament that some of the funding is available in the existing budgets of departments, provinces, municipalities and public entities, and the government will also seek funding from the contingency reserve for 2022/23 for repairing and rebuilding of damaged infrastructure and other disaster recovery pending the enactment of the 2022 Appropriation Act.
The government is also looking at public donations through the Solidarity Fund for humanitarian and other forms of relief, he said.
The fund, which was formed in 2020 to fight COVID-19, has established an account to receive donations from organizations, companies and individuals to response to the floods, with the government putting in the initial amount of funds to enable the fund to undertake necessary work, he added.
According to the president, “it is clear that more money will be needed” to deal with necessary reconstruction and rebuilding work”, although the assessment of the extent of additional funding is still underway.
He also said the government has to ensure that all the funds are spent effectively amid public fears for misappropriation and waste.
South Africa is responding to the flooding in three overlapping phases, namely humanitarian assistance, stabilization and recovery, and reconstruction and rebuilding.
The flooding in KwaZulu-Natal caused severe damage in the hilly city eThekwini, which hosts one of the Africa’s busiest port Durban, and several other areas.
EThekwini, with many gorges and ravines and almost no true coastal plain, is the third largest city in the country by population. It received around 30 percent of its annual rainfall in a 24-hour period, equivalent to 110 days of rainfall.
The access to the Port of Durban has been restored through temporary repairs to the road, and work is underway to return the road to its previous condition.
The president also warned the parliament of climate change, saying that the national meteorological authority has noted that extreme weather events are more prevalent in recent times across most regions of the country and the effects of climate change are expected to increase in severity over the next 20 years.