With soldiers on the ground helping KwaZulu-Natal recover from recent flooding, SA National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel nationwide dug deep into own pockets to assist with donations of clothing, food, sanitary and toilet products.
Their efforts were praised by Chief of the SANDF General Rudzani Maphwanya when he visited the province this week to see rehabilitation and renovation work done by Engineer Formation Sappers and Infantry Formation soldiers supported by Reserve Force elements and the SA Air Force (SAAF).
Donations from SANDF personnel across the country’s nine provinces from the four services and other divisions are, in some quarters, labelled a goodwill project. It should not be confused with the annual SANDF Goodwill Project ensuring year-end cheer to those in uniform deployed on local and continental duties and their families.
Another helping hand for those in need in KwaZulu-Natal comes from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) and the SA Revenue Service (SARS).
DTIC Minister Ebrahim Patel’s department and SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter joined forces with “tonnes of seized clothing, blankets and footwear” instead of being destroyed as per legislation, going to help people who lost everything apart from their lives in the April floods.
Called Project Sizani (We all help), it is another response to the state of disaster declared in the wake of torrential rain and subsequent flooding. A government statement has it the revenue service is behind the project and administers it. “It is important to note SARS, by itself, is not in a position to conduct an operation of this magnitude from a legislative or operational perspective. A raft of engagements and approvals by key government and other external stakeholders, as well as their direct involvement, was required to make it happen,” the statement reads.
This included a “once-off deviation” from a NEDLAC (National Economic Development and Labour Council) agreement, as agreed during a meeting with stakeholders in the clothing, textile, footwear and leather industry (CTFL) to enable donation of CTFL goods that seized and forfeited to SARS to “victims of the severe weather events of April”.
Distribution is monitored at ground level through what is termed “a close working relationship” with the Department of Social Development (DSD) and shelters currently housing people.
On what the national defence force is doing in KwaZulu-Natal, Maphwanya said the charitable gestures by people he commands apart, the 3 714 men and women in uniform on the ground in the province were part of a number of efforts assisting with recovery. They are building bridges, clearing roads, electrifying temporary shelters, engaging in search and rescue efforts and purifying and distributing water to needy communities.
The hands-on SANDF effort goes as far as the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) with doctors, psychologists, and nurses currently deployed at Prince Mshiyeni Hospital in Umlazi for healthcare service support to enhance wellbeing and quality of life.
Five aerial platforms – three helicopters and two fixed wing – have and continue to provide added support to search and rescue efforts and moving essential goods and services speedily to affected and isolated communities.
Addressing media in Durban on Tuesday, Maphwanya said “We have seen fellow citizens battle natural elements, with torrential rains unleashing devastating floods, wreaking havoc and claiming at least 435 lives with many others sadly unaccounted for. As a country, we cannot start to imagine the sense of loss and despair families who lost and are still missing unaccounted for loved ones must be going through. We are continuing on a humanitarian mission necessitated by events of 9 to 13 April and subsequent days of torrential onslaughts around May last month.”
A SA Army Engineer Formation water purification plant at Hazelmere Dam made it possible for Sappers to distribute 12 450 litres of drinking water to learners ar Sarasvati and Uthongathi primary schools as well as Nkosimbovu Secondary School on 2 June. These schools have been short of water due to the floods forcing them to close early.
“The water the SANDF is supplying is going to make a big difference. Firstly, learners will have drinking water – we cannot have learners at school with no water to drink; secondly, we have a nutrition programme but it could not be sustained due to water shortages. The SANDF impacted positively at this school as things can now run as usual,” said Sarasvati Joseph Zoko.
Military water provisioning systems currently produce 10 000 litre sachets of purified water an hour for distribution to identified communities, with a water purification system in place at Inanda Dam. Sixty-nine water tankers ferry water to communities in need.