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Fix flood-hit homes, eThekwini Municipality told

Poor eThekwini municipal infrastructure led to destruction of some properties, parties say.

A damaged road in Mariannridge, Pinetown, after the floods two weeks ago. Opposition parties in eThekwini Municipality want the city to pay for the damage to some homes as they said this was due to the poor condition of infrastructure. Theo Jeptha/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Apr 28, 2022

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DURBAN - OPPOSITION parties have demanded eThekwini Municipality foot the bill on behalf of homeowners whose properties were damaged by the recent floods, saying the city is partly to blame for the extensive damage and losses suffered by residents.

The parties in the council want the municipality to explore providing assistance to private homeowners because the poor condition of its infrastructure meant it could be held liable for some of the damage.

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DA eThekwini caucus leader Nicole Graham said the city had publicly admitted its infrastructure was not what it should be, which then opened the door for the city to be held partly liable for the damage.

She said while the city was not ordinarily liable for the damage to private property, the lines of blame in this instance had been blurred as the city’s poor state of infrastructure exacerbated the situation.

Graham was speaking during the executive committee meeting on Tuesday where the city revealed the extent of the damage and what had been done to restore some form of normality to the affected communities.

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It revealed that more than R5 billion would be required to fix some of the damage suffered. The heavy rains earlier this month caused damage to more than 8 000 homes and displaced more that 21 000 people in the eThekwini Metropolitan area.

In total, the damage left more than 400 people across the province dead and close to 50 missing.

“I have seen what is being done to assist those affected by the floods, I have not seen anything that is a relief mechanism for the private homeowners,” said Graham, pointing out the city could find it hard to escape blame.

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“The reality is that the lines of liability are blurred. While this was a natural disaster, it has been said the city’s infrastructure is not what it should be.”

She said thousands of people had been affected by the floods and might not be able to repair the damage by themselves.

She said the city assisted those living in the RDP houses in the event of natural disaster and should explore similar assistance for the private homeowners.

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Graham implied there were already forms on social media, similar to those used to claim from the city in the event of tyre damage due to potholes or poor road conditions. She said the municipality did not have unlimited resources but needed to give clarity and direction on the issue.

Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said there were proposals that were being put to the city, and that some of the proposals could be put before the council today.

“Some of the proposals include that the (municipal) bills for this month should be put aside,” he said.

A report gave details on the extent of the damage and efforts to recover. It detailed community outreach programmes and help received from donors and the pledges that had been made. It described the damage to the city’s infrastructure as “unprecedented”.

“The eThekwini Cluster teams conducted assessments and verifications of all infrastructure damage reported, even though it is still a moving target since not all settlements are accessible,” said the report.

“The total cost to council for recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction to build back better infrastructure and restore our community order is R5 678 381 607,” it said.

Speaking on the progress made to date, it said the Human Settlement, Engineering and Transport cluster has focused on “repair to our road and stormwater infrastructure, to allow access to essential water, sanitation and electricity infrastructure as well as provide access to key economic nodes, schools and communities where access is completely cut off due to the damaged road infrastructure”.

It detailed the restoration of other services necessary for day-to-day functions, adding that several key traffic signals have been repaired in some intersections although some required major repairs or the reinstatement of electricity.

“Public transport is operating at a maximum except from the Southern Region where it is operating at 70%,” it said.

It also detailed the donor assistance received and expected: “eThekwini Disaster Management and its social partners under the Social Relief Technical Task Team have been providing humanitarian support to the displaced people in the various wards”.

It said, among others, national and international bodies had stepped forward to assist and some of the aid was expected to arrive soon.

The UN has also pledged support with a special focus on asylum seekers, by providing them with identity documents lost during the floods.

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