The provinces of Gauteng, North West, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Free State and some parts of the Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape received the much needed rains after long drought that besieged the whole country. These were followed by further rains associated with the ex-Tropical cyclone Dineo which affected parts of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.
The prolonged torrential rains caused problems in some areas, leaving behind destruction to property and infrastructure. In some Provinces (Bokone Bophirima and the Northern Cape) lives were lost due to the rain that caused flooding.
It was within this context that the Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Honourable Des van Rooyen in his capacity as the political head responsible for disaster management, visited the Province of Bokone Bophirima (North-West) on 28 February 2017. The Minister went to assess the extent of the damage caused by the rains and how this has impacted communities.
Upon arrival and having seen the roads leading to the capital of the Province, Mahikeng, Minister van Rooyen said that it cannot be “business as usual” as we do our planning. He called on sectors and municipalities to plan for infrastructure that is sustainable. The rains caused destruction that requires all stakeholders to join hands to rebuild. “Disaster teams should plan ahead of time for natural occurrences like the one that we have seen in our country”, said Minister van Rooyen. Even though people do not control natural occurrences like flooding, planning assists to lessen the impact of such challenges on communities. He also observed that the bulk of our infrastructure is not compatible to the severity of these emergencies and we need to take this into consideration when we plan for development. He also highlighted the importance of maintaining our infrastructure as a risk reduction measure.
Minister visited a number of areas and families in the Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality that were affected by the heavy rains and it was clear that the lives of communities were negatively affected. He has seen first-hand some of the mud houses that collapsed, which also led to the unfortunate loss of life, roads that were destroyed and noticed other areas which were even not accessible. In one of the affected areas which he visited, Gelukspan, he called on the provincial and local authorities to ensure that measures are put in place to restore flood water diversion walls.
Minister commended the leadership of the Province for having acted speedily to assist those in distress and to ferry others to safety. It is this rapid response from provincial disaster teams that assisted to save many lives. “We are however deeply saddened by the loss of lives that accompanied the rains in this province and we convey our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of the 6 people who were confirmed to have lost their lives due to floods”, added the Minister.
As confirmed by the department of Water and Sanitation, the dams and river levels have increased. Although this is a much welcome relief from the crippling drought that affected our country, it also poses a threat to communities due to the risk of flooding. The Minister also echoed the messages warning communities, especially those residing next to rivers and dams to be cautious and careful. The Department of Water and Sanitation will maintain high vigilance on the dams and rivers in provinces where rains are continuing and will continue to advise communities.
Some bridges and roads are damaged beyond repair and communities are requested not to use such infrastructure as it can lead to injuries and fatalities. Those who are sometimes stuck in traffic due to the damaged roads and bridges, should exercise patience as work is under way to repair and bring the situation to normalcy.
In some areas, it will take time for water to subside, as such this may lead to other unintended consequences like diseases and communities are requested to exercise caution.
Minister van Rooyen will continue visiting other provinces affected by the recent heavy rains to assess the damages and work with provincial and municipal authorities to normalise the situation for communities.
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