MAZWI Mshweshwe and Hlukanisa Shange inspect the house of a couple who tragically perished in a violent storm in Pinetown. SIBUSISO NDLOVU African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - “I will continue to study because my mother’s dream was that I finish school.”

This was the pledge of one of the survivors of the week’s devastating floods across Durban, which left at least 67 people dead, including her 38-year-old mom.

The daughter, 23, who did not wish to be named, said despite losing her mother and all their possessions, she wanted to honour her mom’s wishes that she complete her studies.

The daughter said she was in her second year of criminology at Unisa and would complete the degree within two years.

Her mother - who had moved from the Eastern Cape to Burlington, near Pinetown, found a job at KFC and had plans for a bright future for herself, her partner and her daughter - would be her inspiration.

“My mom was a good person. She loved people and was just a genuinely good-hearted person,” said the daughter.

The young woman’s mother and her partner were killed when a concrete manhole, which had been on higher ground, rolled down and crashed into the RDP house she had rented.

The daughter had a narrow escape through a window.

The Department of Co-operative Governance and local government put the death toll at 70. The daughter said she would move in with other family members because the house had caved in.

Sesethu Banjwa, a friend of the mother, told the Independent on Saturday that the dead woman had high hopes and dreams for herself and her daughter.

“She did not want to work at KFC anymore. She wanted to start a business selling handbags and synthetic hair. Through that business she wanted a site at Mgababa where she could build her own house. She also wanted to build a beautiful home for her parents,” said Banjwa.

When the daughter managed to escape through the window, she called for help from the neighbours, who rushed to try to assist.

“When we got there, the bedroom wall had already collapsed. All that was left was for us to try and retrieve the bodies under the rubble and the mud,” said neighbour Mazwi Mshweshwe.

Mshweshwe said they struggled to recover the bodies of the couple, and all they could see were their feet under mud and huge chunks of concrete.

After about an hour of digging, the bodies were retrieved and moved to the kitchen, where paramedics confirmed they were dead.

“The man’s body was the most broken, the woman was on top of him. I suspect they were trying to make an escape,” said Mshweshwe.

Another neighbour, Hlukanisa Shange, said the sand around the manhole had washed away completely, leaving no support for the structure, resulting in it rolling into the wall.

“The departments are lazy. When we report incidents and situations, the municipality take a long time to respond. The situation with the manhole had been reported on a number of occasions to the municipality because we could see that the soil holding it in place was progressively washing away and there was no retaining wall,” said Shange.

HOMES in Burlington were mangled and twisted by the storm.

Nomusa Mabaso, a relative of the homeowner, said the owner had applied for a retaining wall at the local municipal office.

“For safety reasons, the owner had applied for a retaining wall at the municipal office but her application was rejected. They said she did not qualify,” said Mabaso, adding that the owner was not living at the RDP house because of health issues and there were no proper healthcare facilities nearby.

DA councillor Samantha Windvogel said it was not only the manhole which was the problem, but that the RDP houses in the area were not built properly, and had not been properly maintained.

“The municipality needs to consider improving the quality of the houses. The house above the one (which was hit) appears to also be on the verge of collapse, along with three other houses in the neighbourhood which were severely affected by the floods,” she said.

Windvogel added that because the daughter was over the age of 21, child welfare would not be able to intervene to help her despite her mother’s tragic death.

“We are looking into other ways of assisting her,” said Windvogel.

The daughter said she had received a call from the ANC office to help her get a temporary identity document. 

“I got another call from Sassa regarding a contribution they would make to the funeral arrangements, but everything remains unclear at this time,” she said.

Independent On Saturday