Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka has declared a wide swath of South Africa a disaster area after heavy La Nina summer rains. The South African National Defence Force, meanwhile, remains on standby to assist and has a helicopter as well as a light aircraft deployed at Upington in the Northern Cape under Operation Arabella.
The National Disaster Management Centre says 40 people have been killed and over 6000 people have been displaced by the floods and other incidents of natural disasters. Damage amounting to R356-million so far has been calculated for in just the Northern Cape, North West and KwaZulu-Natal. Consolidated information from the Eastern and Western Cape provinces is still awaited.
Shiceka has declared 28 municipalities in seven of the nine provinces in a “National State of Disaster” in terms of the Disaster Management Act. In Gauteng, this includes the Sedibeng District Municipality, City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, City of Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni Metro and West Rand District Municipality. In the Free State: Fezile Dabi District Municipality, Xhariep District Municipality, Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality. KwaZulu-Natal: uTthukela District Municipality, iLembe District Municipality, Ethekwini Metro, Sisonke District Municipality, Amajuba District Municipality, Ugu District Municipality. Mpumalanga: Nkangala District Municipality, Ehlanzeni District Municipality. North West: Dr Ruth Sekgomotse Mompati District Municipality, Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality, Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality, Bojanala District Municipality. Northern Cape: Frances Baard District Municipality, Siyanda District Municipality, Pixley ka Seme District Municipality, Namakwa District Municipality. Limpopo: Mopani, Sekhukhune, Waterberg Municipality and Vhembe.
Government established an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) at the weekend to ameliorate the effects of the flooding. The committee is chaired by Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka and includes Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale (housing and infrastructure), Lindiwe Sisulu (defence), Nathi Mthethwa (police) and Siyabonga Cwele (state security). Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Angie Motshekga (basic education) and Bathabile Dlamini (social development) complete the committee.
“We have to move with speed and in a coordinated manner in assisting the communities and affected areas,” Shiceka said in a statement issued Saturday. The IMC Sunday visited disaster areas in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Gauteng, North West, Free State and Northern Cape provinces.
The military deployed a Denel Oryx helicopter and Cessna 210 from one of the South African Air Force Reserve squadrons as well as two Operational Emergency Care Practitioners from the South African Military Health Service to Upington last week to provide search and rescue (SAR) support along the flooded lower Orange River.
A 1998 Green Paper on Disaster Management notes the military “may be employed for service in the preservation of life, health, or property and for service in the provision or maintenance of essential services and can be requested to provide support by other government departments.
“The SANDF has resources, though limited, to carry out search and rescue operations at land, sea and air, to provide medical support, to transport relief provisions such as food and water, and to undertake the building of bridges, earth removal and road-building. The SANDF can also have access to military assistance in disaster relief operations from the other members of the Southern African Development Community. The SA Air Force also forms part of the SA Search and Rescue Organisation, a directorate of the Department of Transport.”