Debate: ANC government carrying on as usual while some 15 000 flood victims suffer in mass care centres

Issued by Marlaine Nair, MPL – DA KZN Spokesperson on Human Settlements
25 Nov 2022 in Press Statements

Why the ANC would put forward a party motion on the issue of mass care centres for KwaZulu-Natal’s (KZN) flood victims is a mystery when there is clear evidence that MEC Nonthutuko Mahlaba and his Department of Human Settlements have failed flood victims so dismally.

And then I remembered the words of writer and poet Ajiveet Das who said; “Self-praise is the first sign of insecurity’. The Democratic Alliance (DA) does not blame the MEC for feeling insecure given the current plight being experienced by flood victims. Not only has emergency housing delivery been extremely slow, the quality of Temporary Residential Units (TRU’s) is so poor that it is unclear whether they will even withstand the next storm that hits them.

As an opposition party, the DA is often accused of being critical but in this case it must be noted that it is highly frivolous for this Department to be commending itself for simply doing its job. And not a good one at that. Had the Department performed and exceeded in fulfilling its mandate, it would be different story but the opposite is true. The statistics are proof of this and show that;

· Out of R516million budgeted for TRU’s, only R33,14million had been spent by the end of July

· While the MEC brags that 50% of all mass care centres have been closed, 60 out of the remaining 70 are in eThekwini – the epicentre of the floods

· There are still more some 3 809 families residing in shelters. With an average of four per family this means that approximately 15 000 people remain homeless more than seven months after the floods and;

· According to reports, only 228 families in eThekwini have received TRU’s to date.

As of October, the budget for Phase 1 had not been used while funding allocated for Phase 2 and 3 had not yet been touched. Now, the Department has come up with a ‘half way house’ – Temporary Emergency Accommodation (TEA’s) – which flood victims are expected to live in for up to two years before they finally receive a TRU, which has a five-year lifespan. Only then will they receive permanent accommodation.

As if this was not bad enough, the Auditor-General also stated that the needs assessments for TRU’s for flood victims had been slow with only 24% (1 197 out of 4 983 destitute families) having been assessed by end of July. From the outset, this Department, did not timeously assess and validate homeless households as TRU beneficiaries. Nor did it improve its project management processes to expedite their construction in line with targets.

In August, the DA warned that the rate at which TRUs were being delivered – 4.8% across KZN and 0.8% in eThekwini – would not deal with the enormous “emergency” housing backlog. In addition, monitoring was ineffective, there was poor quality workmanship with some TRUs being placed on the same flood plains as previous housing and there was non-compliance with specifications. Targets were also not met. At the time, only 254 TRUs had been built for 894 verified flood victims causing them additional agony and despair.

The lack of will within this Department is not surprising considering the now decade old transit camps and massive housing backlog in our province – all under the ANC’s watch. If there is anybody who should be commended for leading the fight on behalf of flood victims, should be DA KZN Leader, Francois Rodgers, who has worked tirelessly, leading a delegation from hall to hall to see and hear first-hand of their plight. While the DA welcomes the MECs idea for the portfolio committee to conduct oversight on resettlement progress, an even better one would have been to visit flood victims during their darkest hour – a time when they were abandoned with no information forth coming from government. It is clear that this Department has been missing in action.

In KwaDabeka and Thelimnyama, flood victims were left in halls for weeks without any water. In both areas, it was DA councillors that had to step in and arrange both food and water. In Ward 106 Mountview community hall, the DA was met with the shocking sight of approximately 450 men, women and children packed like sardines and living like refugees in their own country. Women and children had to bathe in basins in the toilet area while men were forced to use the garbage holding area. This morning, our Councillor informed me that nothing has changed, in fact it has dramatically worsened.

Despite these challenges, this ANC-run government has carried on as though it is business as usual, leaving the DA to pick up the pieces and take the fight to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) where we handed over a Memorandum of Demands, calling for intervention of behalf of vulnerable victims.

When flood victims were left to sleep in a bus overnight outside a police station and then transported to a filthy dilapidated student residence on the Berea, it was the DA that stepped in, providing meals and support. Then there are the Truro Hall victims – who were packed and ready to move into their temporary emergency accommodation – only to be redirected to the Royal Hotel because the lease had not been signed. And then there is the eviction of flood victims who invaded the government-owned Montclair Lodge in an act of pure desperation who were only later told it would be leased for them. As if this was not bad enough, the Premier’s planned Prayer Day has also been postponed. The DA assumes it was due to plans, by disgruntled flood victims, to picket at the event.

KZN’s flood victims have been kicked from pillar to post by a government that does not care. The people of our province will have an opportunity to rid themselves of this ANC administration in just over a year when they make their mark at the ballot box.