A parliamentary response to questions by the Democratic Alliance (DA) about fire-fighting capabilities in KwaZulu-Natal has revealed gaps and weaknesses in the province’s capacity to protect and assist it’s citizens in most local municipalities. This due to a lack of personnel and specialised equipment.
The reply (view here) from KZN CoGTA MEC, Sipho Hlomuka shows that every one of the province’s 54 municipalities is short of at least one fire engine.
To add to this, there is currently a shortfall of 583 fire fighters across the province, with rural municipalities such as Pongola, Madlangeni, Nkandla, and Ndwedwe worst affected. In addition, hazmat units, aerial ladders, mobile command units and heavy motor vehicle equipment are urgently needed.
The DA believes that the people of our province are being placed at great risk by the current situation. KZN is a disaster prone province with frequent floods, tornadoes, cyclones, and fires. Some of these are in high risk areas such as informal settlements. It is therefore imperative that each municipality has sufficient capacity to respond to disasters.
The shock findings come after a recent oversight inspection by the DA to the eDumbe municipality, where we found that there were only nine 9 fire fighters and one old and barely functional fire engine, severely compromising the ability of that municipality to assist residents during cyclone Eloise.
The findings also come after the DA recently uncovered that the KZN’s Disaster Management Unit requires R316 million to operate at the optimal level. This while the current budget is just under R18 million.
It is untenable that KZN’s CoGTA Department continues to spend hundreds of millions of Rands on staff salaries while basic life saving equipment is lacking in our communities.
The DA urges the MEC to take urgent action by reconsidering his budget priorities. The safety of KZN’s people must come first.