2010 disaster plan ready and tested

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The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs is currently testing its 2010 Disaster Management Plan in partnership with the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC). A statement released after this week’s Cabinet meeting says simulation exercises are being conducted to verify the effectiveness of the plans.

This is a step up from November last year, when Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said that a report on the state of readiness of national disaster management systems for 2010 showed that coordination between provinces and municipalities needed to be improved.

Government spokesman Themba Maseko says the completion of the disaster management plan is is the latest of a series of deadlines met in preparation for this June’s FIFA soccer world cup. President Jacob Zuma this week officially opened the newly revamped international terminal at the OR Tambo International Airport while King Shaka International Airport will be officially opened on May 1. “These two airports, as well as the Gauteng Rapid Rail link, amongst others, form part of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Legacy project and will give impetus to the integrated transport infrastructure solution for the country, Maseko says.

He adds that all the stadia are ready and are in the process of being handed over to the host cities well ahead of the FIFA requirement that the stadia be handed over to them 15 days before the start of what could be the most defining moment for our country and continent. “The ‘ticket frenzy’ that greeted the last phase of ticket sales was the clearest evidence yet that South Africans are indeed ready and excited about the World Cup,” he continued.
“Mass mobilisation efforts such as the Football Friday, Fly the flag, road shows and the countdown campaigns are having the desired impact of inspiring South Africans to embrace the biggest show on earth. Millions of South Africans are flying the national flag from their cars and wearing the Bafana Bafana and other football shirts as a sign of their readiness to welcome the world during the World Cup. The Department of Sport and Recreation is putting up billboards throughout the country and flighting adverts on various radio and TV stations to raise awareness and get increasing numbers of South Africans excited about the World Cup.”

Cabinet also welcomed the end of a week-long the strike by municipal workers following the signing of the agreement between the government-aligned SA Municipal Workers’ Union and their employers, but condemned “the continued trashing of our cities. This is totally unacceptable. The destruction of property and throwing of rubbish in the streets will never be an acceptable way of highlighting their grievances. Union leaders are urged to educate their members about the need for protesters to conduct themselves in a mature and measured manner and to lead by example to all South Africans,” the executive said.

Disaster

Last November Motlanthe said government would set up a national operations centre to monitor and report all incidents during the soccer tournament. Each province, except the Northern Cape, by then already had a central disaster management centre (DMC) and government was to create a central command post to monitor and control any disaster situations and emergencies that occur during the tournament, according to ITWeb.

The centre, it said, was to link to all nine provinces and provide real-time monitoring, collating and reporting of any incidents. The centre, which would be managed by the NDMC, would host ICT systems that would include online monitoring systems for all official venues and also provide radio linkages. It is not clear what the national centre has cost. Gauteng opened a state-of-the-art R50 million facility in Midrand in November 2007 as part of its preparations for the World Cup.

In October the official opposition Democratic Alliance party said disaster management planning needed urgent attention with one province and 18 local governments lacking statutory mandated disaster management centres and 43 municipalities – including Johannesburg – lacking proper plans.

DA water and environmental shadow minister Gareth Morgan said he had elicited that state of affairs from Parliamentary questions posed to the Minister of Cooperative Governance Sicelo Shiceka. Morgan says this is a “matter of serious concern considering that an increase in the number and intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods, is one of the likely impacts of climate change.”

Morgan says the 18 municipalities and the Northern Cape government have failed to establish Disater Management Centres despite legislation passed in 2002 (and promulgated in 2004) requiring them to do so. He noted that in terms of Section 43 of the Disaster Management Act all Metropolitan and District municipalities must establish disaster management centres. Section 29 of the same Act mandates all provinces to establish disaster management centres. “Of the 18 municipalities that have not developed these centres, five are in KZN, including Ethekwini (Durban) Municipality.
“Of concern is the fact that the minister could not provide information for ten other municipalities, including Johannesburg, which suggests that the figure for the number of municipalities without disaster management centres could be higher than the figure provided. Forty-three municipalities, including Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth), have yet to submit ‘acceptable and appropriate’ disaster management plans to the NDMC.

Morgan said the main reason put forward for failure to comply with the law is a lack of funds.

In February last year then-provincial and local government minister Sicelo Shiceka said he would reform SA’s disaster management system as the response time of the current structure is too slow. Disaster management forms part of Shiceka remit. He made the comments after visiting flooded communities in the Northern Cape. He noted the province and many local authorities there had no disaster management plans.

The country`s lack of preparedness for disasters is also highlighted in a University of Witwatersrand study released that month on an outburst of xenophobic violence in 2008 and the state response. The report, commissioned by the SA office of the British charity Oxfam and conducted by the University of the Witwatersrand’s Forced Migration Studies Programme found that “civil violence” is likely to rise again, whether against foreign nationals or among South Africans – and that neither government nor civil society was thn ready to provide effective protection or relief.

Pic: The police 10111 contact centre at Midrand in Gauteng.