Disaster management needs attention: DA


The official opposition Democratic Alliance party says disaster management planning in South Africa needs 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 says he elicit 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 notes 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 National Disaster Management Centre.

All provinces except the Northern Cape have established disaster management centres, Morgan notes. “This province has also yet to begin work on formulating a disaster management plan.”

Gauteng opened a state-of-the-art R50 million facility in Midrand in November 2007 as part of the province’s logistical preparations for the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup.

A statement at the time informed that the facility housed the Gauteng Disaster Management Centre as well as an Emergency Management Medical Services (EMMS) centre that would allow the province to deal with emergencies and disasters from a central point.

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

He says he will now submit further parliamentary questions to assess whether any time-lines have been set for the completion of these plans across all municipalities in the country, and whether measures are being put in place to ensure that the required funding is sourced for those municipalities that are genuinely under resourced. 

“While disasters are by their very nature unpredictable and varied in nature, including both human and environmental disasters, we must prepare for them in the eventuality that they do occur. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expressed increased confidence in its most recent report that some weather events will become more frequent, more widespread and more intense during the 21st century. While one cannot link any one weather event to climate change, the nature of how these events could play out is now well backed up by science.

“South Africa is vulnerable to extreme weather events, as is the rest of Southern Africa. Such events could include heavy rainfall, prolonged droughts, increased water needs due to higher temperatures and runaway fires. All of these events have the potential to accentuate poverty and increase human migration.”