Parliamentary answer shines light on KZN’s firefighting shortfalls
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DURBAN: The state of firefighting in KwaZulu-Natal is in disarray. A Parliamentary response to questions by the DA, regarding the province's firefighting capabilities, has revealed major gaps and weaknesses, as well as a lack of personnel and specialised equipment.
"The reply from KZN Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Sipho Hlomuka shows that every one of the province’s 54 municipalities is short of at least one fire engine," said DA spokesperson on Cogta Chris Pappas.
He said there is currently a shortfall of 583 firefighters across the province.
"Rural municipalities, such as Pongola, Madlangeni, Nkandla, and Ndwedwe, were worst affected. In addition, hazmat units, aerial ladders, mobile command units and heavy motor vehicle equipment are urgently needed," he said.
Pappas said the people in KZN were being placed at risk by the current state of affairs, adding that KZN is a disaster prone province with, frequent floods, tornadoes, cyclones, and fires.
"Some of these are in high risk areas, such as informal settlements. It is, therefore, imperative that each municipality has sufficient capacity to respond to disasters.
“The shock findings come after a recent oversight inspection by the DA to the eDumbe municipality, where we found that there were only nine fire fighters and one old and barely functional fire engine, severely compromising the ability of that municipality to assist residents during cyclone Eloise," Pappas said.
He said the findings also come after the DA recently uncovered that the KZN’s Disaster Management Unit requires R316 million to operate at the optimal level.
“This, while the current budget is just under R18 million.
“It is untenable that KZN’s Cogta Department continues to spend hundreds of millions of rand on staff salaries, while basic life-saving equipment is lacking in our communities.
“We urge the MEC to take urgent action by reconsidering his budget priorities. The safety of KZN’s people must come first," said Pappas.