Durban - The R1 billion that was announced by both President Cyril Ramaphosa and Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana to rebuild homes and infrastructure that were damaged by the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal last month is no longer available for use.
This was revealed by the DA on Monday during a media briefing that the party dubbed the real state of the province after the disaster.
KwaZulu-Natal government spokesperson Lennox Mabaso dismissed the DA’s claims, saying it lacked an understanding of how the government finance system worked. He said that when a disaster struck, government departments were allowed to use their funds for immediate relief, but the National Treasury would reimburse them. He said it was not true that the R1bn committed by the president was no longer available, and that the DA had deliberately distorted what the Finance MEC said.
Presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale said the president was happy with the progress that had been made by the province and eThekwini Municipality in restoring services.
The president also said the state of readiness for national disasters had to be drastically improved, and disaster risk assessments by all provinces had to be regular and ongoing.
Flanked by a national member of Parliament, Dean Macpherson, eThekwini councillors Nicole Graham, Sthembiso Ngema and Thabani Mthethwa, the party’s provincial leader, Francois Rogers, said that as there had been no progress after the promises announced by the government, he approached Finance MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube to find out where the funds were that had been committed by the government.
He said Dube-Ncube’s answer was that the R1 billion was no longer coming, and it was clear that the province and the affected municipalities must reprioritise their budgets.
The DA leader lashed out at the government, asking what the reason was for placing the province under a national State of Disaster if funds were not going to be made available?
The party warned the national and provincial governments to release the funds or face a revolt from the people, adding that neglected flood victims were frustrated and boiling with anger. The party warned that if the matter was not urgently attended to, a revolt against the government was imminent.
The DA said that when the president told the eThekwini Municipality, in the aftermath of the floods, that R1bn in relief funding would be made available, he knew at the time that it was not true.
“It is very clear that officials and politicians are hiding the real crisis that is worsening every day. More than one month after the flood, thousands of residents and communities across the city are still without water and have no idea when it will be fully restored.
“Electricity outages continue to plague households, despite the metro being exempt from load shedding. This has become apparent after the KZN government admitted that this amount would have to be found through the reprioritisation of the provincial budget over the next three years,” said the DA.
The party said it was aware that there was R10bn in the national government contingency reserve, and R300 million in the provincial reserve that was kept for disasters like this, but neither government was utilising the funds for relief programmes.
“When a national State of Disaster was declared in KZN, this should have ordinarily allowed access to funding from the contingency reserve fund. It appears that this has not happened. So where is the money and what was the purpose of the State of Disaster being declared?” asked the DA.
It further lamented the lack of leadership in the province, and eThekwini in particular, saying there was no co-ordination.
The party said it was unclear where the province’s disaster relief effort was being co-ordinated from, or who was politically responsible for it, and that eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda had been largely absent throughout the disaster. So much so that deputy mayor Philani Mavundla and opposition executive committee (exco) councillors – who constitute a majority – had to force the mayor to call an exco meeting after 16 days without one.
Macpherson said the ad hoc committee that was approved by Parliament to oversee the work and funds for the flood only met on Friday, and had no knowledge of what happened to the floods funding.