The heavy rain, which lashed most parts of the province, also left scores of people displaced.
Opposition parties and private companies have put the blame for the deaths and destruction on eThekwini Municipality officials for shoddy and tardy work in ensuring the drainage problems which caused havoc during the massive October 2017 storm that swept through the province were addressed.
They say money approved for repairs was not spent. Following the 2017 storm - which destroyed homes, schools, businesses, and vehicles - the executive committee had immediately approved a report which stated that the estimated cost to repair infrastructure damage was more than R576 million.
As many as 60 wards were affected with 3112 households impacted.
A breakdown of costs indicated that engineering-related repairs would cost R308m, Human Settlements required R250m, Disaster Management and Emergency Control R4.1m, Parks and Recreation R7.7m, Cleansing and Solid Waste R1.3m, Electricity R2.6m and Water and Sanitation R2.3m.
Acting deputy city manager of Community and Emergency Services Martin Xaba said at the time it was crucial to ensure the rehabilitation of infrastructure went ahead.
Yesterday, Mdu Nkosi, IFP member of Exco, said the extent of damage caused by floods this time around indicated that the money approved by the council after the October 2017 storm was not used as intended to prevent future damage.
“It is obvious the 2017 damage was either not repaired properly or not repaired at all. Judging by the flooding of the roads, it’s obvious that there is a problem with our drainage system, because the same areas that were the hardest hit in 2017 were even more affected this time around.”
Nkosi said nothing could be done to control natural disasters, but systems could be put in place and maintained to deal with such disasters.
“We should have learnt from the 2017 storm damage and done something to prevent extensive damage from happening again. The IFP has asked how often the drainage systems are being cleaned, and we are still waiting for answers and a report on this question.”
Mondli Mthembu, ANC member of Exco, said the council had approved the report for the R576m to repair the 2017 storm damage, but the municipality had to follow the right procedures, including getting approvals, and as a result the repairs had not begun immediately.
He said urgent repairs to bridges and drainage systems were done immediately, but some contractors only began work last month, 18 months later.
Mthembu said the drainage system in Durban was ageing, especially in townships, where there had been an influx of people over the years, without infrastructure development. He said there was a need for drainage systems to be improved and developed to cope with heavy rain.
He added that the mushrooming of informal settlements in unsuitable areas contributed to deaths.
DA caucus leader Nicole Graham said the damage indicated that the municipality urgently needed to have the capacity to deal with floods. She said the city also needed to look at its tender systems, with special attention to its supply chain management to ensure people given tenders were skilled. The housing system should be monitored to ensure they were built in safe areas.
“It seems there is a problem with our stormwater system. The damage is far worse than happened previously and means we need to maintain and boost our drainage systems,” said Graham.
Deputy mayor Fawzia Peer said the system should have been addressed 10 years ago. “We would not be in the dilemma that we are in now, if we had sorted out our drainage system. This is where our main problem with flooding lies: the dirt is causing the drains to block; otherwise the disasters would not be this big. It contributes to flooding in our townships because people are not educated about keeping the drains clean and free of litter,” she said.
Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said it tried to ensure drains were clear, but people disposed of foreign objects in drains, affecting their ability to function.
“We have started a campaign to educate residents about the dangers of disposing in drains, to act responsibly and that the city cannot win alone.”
Mabaso added that the storm was “a wake-up call” that the earth was warming up and greater effort was needed to reduce carbon emissions.
“It will take a lot of education to get everyone to understand that we are in the grip of climate change.”