Tongaat flood deaths ‘avoidable’

From left: EThekwini DA councillors, Geoff Pullan, Yogis Govender and Thabani Mthethwa getting a briefing from flood survivor Zamo Ngema. | WILLEM PHUNGULA.

From left: EThekwini DA councillors, Geoff Pullan, Yogis Govender and Thabani Mthethwa getting a briefing from flood survivor Zamo Ngema. | WILLEM PHUNGULA.

Published Jan 18, 2024


Durban — Survivors of the deadly Durban flash floods said that had eThekwini Municipality’s authorities kept their promises of relocating them to safe houses, the loss of lives could have been prevented.

Residents living on the bank of a river in Hillview in Tongaat (oThongathi), north of Durban, told a DA delegation that visited them on Wednesday that before the 2021 local government elections, the City told them they were living in an area that was prone to flooding, therefore they would be moved to new flats that the City was building, but nothing happened.

One of the survivors, Zamo Ngema, said if the City had kept its promise and relocated them to safe houses no one would have died.

The flash flood that hit the Tongaat area left three people dead; two were from one family.

Ngema, a close neighbour to the people who died, said the two from one family were trapped in the house surrounded by gushing waters that immediately swept them away as they tried to escape.

“For four years I have been waiting to be relocated. I survived many floods, including the devastating 2022 floods, and I survived this one,” he said.

“My problem is that I don’t know when I will be relocated to the promised land by the City.

“If they kept their promise, last week’s floods would have found no one here,” said Ngema.

The houses they were promised are now being occupied by people, but he did not know where they came from, he said.

Ngema said they have been living in the flooded homes since Saturday and no one has provided them with shelter, adding that they have no water or food.

DA eThekwini caucus leader Thabani Mthethwa, who was accompanied by the party’s Tongaat councillors Yogis Govender and Geoff Pullan, expressed his disappointment that the victims were still living in their flooded homes and had not been taken to safe shelters.

He said he would immediately raise the matter with the relevant authorities.

Mthethwa also promised to follow up on why they were not moved to the houses the City had promised them.

“Our priority would be to ensure that you get help now and be moved to a safe shelter, while we are dealing with what happened to your houses since you were on the list.

“We see that the City has neglected Tongaat and has not maintained infrastructure,” he said.

Govender said the local sports field was washed away after the river burst into residential areas and flooded houses on the bank of the river that runs into Tongaat River.

She said this would have been avoided if the City had done dredging on the bank to control the water.

“This is an old problem of the municipality that is failing to plan properly. “It is clear that the City has not learnt a lesson from the deadly 2022 floods which left Tongaat battered.

“This part of Durban was mostly affected by the 2022 floods, yet the City was not paying attention to it in terms of implementing preventive measures,” said Govender.

Another reason she cited as a cause for the flooding in the Tongaat area was the ongoing problem of poor drainage.

Water around the area was no longer being soaked up by the soil, and was now flowing to Tongaat town and swelling streams, she said.

eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Gugu Sisilana said the City does not make reckless statements or false promises, the reality is that the informal settlement backlog is over 300 000, and people flock to the City in search of economic opportunity.

“EThekwini Municipality has ensured that community halls are available to accommodate distressed residents, in Hillview and other areas. Many survivors did not want to move to community halls but they opted to stay in their homes saying they want to clean and safeguard their properties,” Sisilana said

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