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Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Joint Sitting of Parliament on widespread flooding, Good Hope Chambers, Cape Town

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Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula,
Chairperson of the NCOP, Mr Amos Masondo,
Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Sihle Zikalala,
Premier of the Eastern Cape, Mr Oscar Mabuyane,
Honourable Members, 

At this hour, across the nation, men and women of all faiths and beliefs are observing a moment of prayer for those who lost their lives and for those who are still suffering as a result of the catastrophic floods that ravaged parts of our country and the fires that displaced hundreds of people in this city.

The National Religious Forum is conducting at this very minute a Walk of Witness at some of the flood-affected areas of KwaZulu-Natal to assess the situation and offer solidarity and pastoral care and counselling

The National Religious Forum has called on all South Africans to use this time, at 2pm, for a collective nationwide prayer event.

We applaud our religious leaders for providing comfort, support and encouragement at this time of national grief.
Two weeks ago, a great tragedy befell our nation, causing catastrophic loss of life and widespread destruction.

The floods in parts of KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and North West were of such force that they laid waste to nearly everything in their path.

Hundreds of people lost their lives. Many are still missing.

Hillsides, homes, roads, bridges and other infrastructure were washed away.

Factories, warehouses, shops, public buildings, farms and fields were flooded.

Just when we were rebuilding the lives shattered by the COVID-19 pandemic, just as our economy was showing signs of recovery, we have been plunged into mourning once again.

I want to thank you for agreeing to this special joint sitting of the Houses of Parliament so that the members of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces could express solidarity for those who have passed away and the injured. 

It is correct and appropriate that, as the elected representatives of the people of South Africa, you should also be involved in the work to rebuild lives and livelihoods.

The extent of this crisis calls for unity in action across the nation and within this Parliament across party lines.

I wish to pay tribute to the various parties that are represented here in this Parliament that have visited the affected areas and have been providing support and mobilising material assistance.

I wish to applaud the contribution of many South Africans and many businesses who have over the past two weeks sent donations, food, clothing and other essentials to affected communities.

It is now a week since a national state of disaster was declared to enable us to marshall the necessary capabilities and resources to respond to the destructive impact of the floods.

This declaration enables the mobilisation of more resources, capabilities and technical expertise in providing relief, recovery and rehabilitation to affected communities.

Our focus is on the three provinces that were hardest hit.

KwaZulu-Natal has suffered the most extensive damage. 

From the 8th to the 13th of April, the coastal parts of KwaZulu-Natal experienced extremely heavy rainfall, causing severe damage in the eThekwini metro and the districts of King Cetshwayo, iLembe, Ugu and Umgungundlovu.

The eThekwini metro received around 30 per cent of its annual rainfall in one 24-hour period.

Put differently, in just one day, the city received the equivalent of 110 days of rainfall.

The resulting deluge led to the loss of at least 435 lives in the province.

At present, there are 54 people still missing or unaccounted for.

Over 5,700 houses have been completely destroyed and nearly 10,000 houses have been partially damaged.

Around 630 schools have been affected and over 100 schools are not accessible at present.

Sadly, 58 learners and 1 educator have passed away. Five learners are still missing.

The economic damage is substantial, notably to the Port of Durban, one of the continent’s busiest ports.

Supply of essential services have been disrupted, leaving homes, schools and businesses without water and electricity.

In the Eastern Cape, the districts of Alfred Nzo, Chris Hani, Joe Gqabi and OR Tambo bore the brunt of the flooding.

At least two people lost their lives in the flooding, three people were injured, and around 1,000 people were affected by the destruction of houses and other losses.

As in KwaZulu-Natal, the flooding caused damage to roads and bridges and disrupted water and electricity supply to various areas.

Similar damage was experienced in the North West province, affecting the districts of Bojanala, Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati, Dr Kenneth Kaunda and Ngaka Modiri Molema.

A total of 1,535 houses have been damaged by heavy rainfall in the province.

By declaring a national state of disaster, the responsibility for coordinating and managing the disaster is that of national government, working closely with provincial governments and our municipalities.

We are responding to this disaster in three overlapping phases.

The first of these phases is focused on humanitarian assistance, on ensuring that all affected persons are safe and that their basic needs, like food and water, are met.

Working with NGOs, religious bodies, companies and relief organisations, the different spheres of government have been providing meals, blankets, dignity packs and other essentials to displaced individuals in shelters, schools and community halls.

Some of these have not been adequate. Some have not provided the necessary dignity. That is why I have said that people must be moved with greater speed to temporary accommodation.

Relief has also been provided in the form of Social Relief of Distress grants to affected individuals, the supply of emergency water, provision of school uniforms and assistance with funeral costs.

Mobile classrooms are being deployed to damaged schools and repair work is underway to ensure a return to schooling in these areas as soon as possible.

The second phase of our response is stabilisation and recovery. This involves rehousing people who have lost homes and restoring provision of services.

Clean-up campaigns are underway in all affected municipalities, with participants in the Community Works Programme involved in many areas.

The South African National Roads Agency has been working with national and provincial transport departments and affected municipalities to assess the damage to key routes and support the repair work that is currently underway.

The Defence Force will also get involved in this through bridge building.

Several roads have been re-opened in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape and many bridges have been repaired.

Extensive work has been done to restore the supply of water, particularly in eThekwini, which has been most severely affected by damage to bulk water infrastructure.

Restoring water supply to all areas remains a significant challenge, however, and is vital if we are to safeguard the health and well-being of all residents of these areas.

Electricity has been restored in most areas of eThekwini and other affected municipalities, although there is still a high volume of faults being reported.

Providing accommodation for families that have lost their homes is a priority, especially with the winter months approaching.

This involves, in the immediate term, the provision of temporary residential units and a voucher system for households to rebuild partially damaged houses.

Work is also underway to identify suitable land parcels to build new houses for those who have been displaced.

The province of KwaZulu-Natal has set up an online portal for businesses to report damages, and is working with the national Department of Small Business Development to reprioritise resources to support small businesses that have been affected.

The third phase of our response is focused on reconstruction and rebuilding.

Engineers have been deployed from several public and private entities – and from a number of other provinces – to assist with technical assessments of the damage to infrastructure, and to advise on immediate and longer-term measures to repair and rebuild.

Access to the Port of Durban has been restored through temporary repairs to the Bayhead Road, and work is underway to return the road to its previous condition and possibly enlarge it into a four-lane road.

Honourable Members,

All the areas affected by flooding will require a significant commitment of resources to recover from this disaster.

We will need to mobilise substantial funding within a fiscal environment that is severely constrained.

We have to provide support to displaced households and rebuild roads, bridges, buildings and other infrastructure while at the same time sustaining expenditure measures in support of the reconstruction and recovery of our economy.

We must respond to the impact of these catastrophic floods at a time when we are still counting the cost of the COVID-19 pandemic and the July 2021 public unrest.

Some of the funding needed to respond to this disaster is available in the existing budgets of departments, provinces, municipalities and public entities.

National Treasury is providing guidance to the relevant institutions on how they may reprioritise resources in their budgets, how they can access disaster response grants and the requirements for the reallocation of conditional grant funds.

Another source of funding is the contingency reserve for 2022/23, which can be used for the repair and rebuilding of damaged infrastructure and other disaster recovery. It will, however, only become available once the 2022 Appropriation Act is enacted.

The Solidarity Fund is also putting in place dedicated teams to assist with humanitarian and other forms of relief.

As it did with the COVID-19 response, the Solidarity Fund has established an account to received donations from organisations, companies and individuals.

Government will make an initial amount of funds available to the Solidarity Fund to enable it to undertake the necessary work.

This is an important part of the broader effort to build social partnerships that draw on the best talents and capabilities of both the public and private sectors.

National Treasury is continuing to interact with the various state institutions involved, including the National Disaster Management Centre, to assess the extent of any additional funding required to respond to the disaster. 

It is clear that more money will be needed to deal with the reconstruction and rebuilding work that we must undertake.

We have to ensure that all the funds used to respond to this disaster are spent effectively.

It is a great source of shame that when this disaster struck, the most burning public debate was around fears that the resources allocated to respond to this disaster would be misappropriated or wasted.

This shows us just how tired the people of South Africa have become of corruption. 

It is a stern reminder to all of government and to businesses providing goods and services that the people of South Africa will not stand for acts of self-enrichment at the expense of those who have already lost so much.

That is why several measures are being taken to strengthen oversight and accountability.

Working together with National Treasury, the Auditor-General will conduct real-time audits on the emergency flood relief funds. 

This will provide independent assurance on whether public funds have been appropriately accounted for and were used for their intended purpose. 

These audits aim to prevent, detect and report on the findings to ensure an immediate response to prevent leakage, potential fraud and wastage. 

They will equip accounting officers and accounting authorities to act quickly on weaknesses in controls and prevent further losses. They will also enable immediate oversight and consequence management. 

National Treasury is also strengthening reporting requirements with respect to expenditure on disaster relief.

To improve monitoring and ensure greater transparency, the details of all disaster-related procurement by public institutions will be published on the Treasury website to allow public scrutiny of these procurement transactions.

Honourable Members,

These storms, the resulting loss of life and destruction of key infrastructure are a reminder that climate change remains the biggest single threat to the future of humanity.

The South African Weather Service notes that extreme weather events are more prevalent in recent times across most regions of the country.

The effects of climate change are already being widely felt and are expected to increase in severity over the next 20 years. 

These impacts are directly affecting people, economies and the natural world. 

Our country has made significant progress in putting in place the architecture to reduce our carbon footprint and make our economy and society more climate resilient. 

In August 2020, Cabinet approved the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy.

This strategy guides our efforts to build resilience and reduce the vulnerability of communities to climate change. 

The adaptation strategy aims to ensure that climate resilience is factored into every aspect of government planning: from water use management to the construction of human settlements, from public transport to infrastructure, from disaster management to energy.

As we rebuild from this disaster, we need to ensure that we are guided by the principles and approaches contained in the adaptation strategy.

Honourable Members,

There is no shortage of heroes in our country. 

We have seen it once again during this disaster.

Amidst this crisis, we have seen acts of great heroism on the part of citizens, non-governmental organisations and community groups and leaders.

We commend and thank the many individuals and organisations that mobilised within hours to provide relief to those affected by the floods.

The nation owes a debt of gratitude to the South African Police Service, South African National Defence Force and other emergency personnel who have been undertaking search, rescue and recovery operations since the heavy rainfall first struck parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape.

This includes rescue personnel from the Western Cape, Free State, North West, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

In this regard, we remember and honour Sergeant Busisiswe Mjwara, a police diver who died while conducting a search for victims in the Msunduzi River.

Through their tireless efforts in dangerous conditions, these heroic South Africans have saved countless lives and kept many people from harm.

They have also undertaken the difficult task of searching for missing persons and recovering the bodies of people washed away in the floods.

It is to these courageous women and men that the nation owes much.

Without them the human cost of this disaster would have been far greater.

We are grateful for the messages of support and pledges of solidarity that have been received from across the world, including from the African Union, United Nations and several Heads of State.

We thank those countries that have offered various forms of assistance as we respond to this disaster.

The effects of this tragedy will be felt for a long time to come. 

The trauma of losing loved ones, homes and businesses will take a long time to heal.

Over the past few years, we have found ourselves at a crossroads many times. We have found ourselves feeling helpless and hopeless. 

Our nation’s resilience has always been its shield, and our ability to unite in times of crisis has been our greatest strength. 

I want to call on this Parliament, with elected representatives of different political parties, to work together to help the people of KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, North West and this city to rebuild their lives. 

Let us use this Joint Sitting to rally around those who have lost everything and to pledge them our full support.

Let us prove that we can work together for the sake of the people and for the sake of our nation.

This is the reason why I asked the Presiding Officers to convene this Joint Sitting.

Let us live up to our sense and feeling of solidarity for the people of our country who have been affected by this. This is our hour. Let us help them.

I thank you.