‘Life and death delays’: Western Cape Infrastructure Department calls for decentralisation of the Emergency Housing Fund to respond to disasters quicker

Residents from the Faure Wine Farm in Croydon who were displaced by the recent storm. Photo: Leon Lestrade / Independent Newspapers

Residents from the Faure Wine Farm in Croydon who were displaced by the recent storm. Photo: Leon Lestrade / Independent Newspapers

Published Jul 11, 2024


As the Western Cape is battered by adverse weather, the Western Cape MEC for Infrastructure, Tertias Simmers has called on National Minister of Human Settlements, Mmamoloko Kubayi to review the current funding mechanisms and collaborate with provincial and local authorities to establish a more efficient system for the distribution of emergency housing funding.

Simmers said the decentralisation of emergency funding is not merely a bureaucratic step; it is a necessary reform that will enable government to respond to disasters with the urgency and precision communities deserve.

A Level 8 warning has been issued by the South African Weather Service (Saws) for Thursday across the province.

“The Western Cape stands ready to lead by example in implementing this change. We have the capacity, expertise, and commitment to manage emergency funds responsibly and effectively. The national government must work with willing provincial governments to safeguard our residents.

“The recent inclement weather has severely impacted our communities and highlighted the urgent need for a more efficient and responsive emergency funding system. The delays by the centralised emergency housing and disaster funding system in addressing these emergencies between the 2023/24 financial year and this week have significantly hindered all spheres of government, compromising our ability to protect and assist affected and displaced communities effectively,” Simmers said.

He said the Western Cape Government has consistently taken a proactive approach to managing and mitigating the impacts of natural disasters. However, its efforts are frequently hampered by delays and bureaucratic obstacles at the national level. The existing centralised model for emergency funding needs to be revised in addressing the immediate needs of communities during crises, Simmers said.

“Provincial and local governments must have emergency housing funds devolved to them to allow for greater flexibility and speed in responding to disasters. Enabling provincial and local authorities with direct access to emergency funds will ensure a swifter and more targeted response to the needs of our residents.

“Currently, over 17,000 residents have been affected by the adverse weather conditions, with over 7,000 displaced and in need of shelter,” Simmers said.

He also revealed in the 2023/24 financial year, in the City of Cape Town, there were 24,183 structures damaged and 32,586 people affected by inclement weather and fires.

“Many communities remain vulnerable and in desperate need of assistance. The time it takes for emergency funds to be disbursed from national government can mean the difference between life and death. The turn-around time for the provincial and municipality response is 24 to 48 hours to provide relief in times of emergency. The current system takes up to a month before communities receive relief.

“We call on all stakeholders, including civil society, businesses, and residents, to support this call for decentralisation. Together, we can build a more resilient and responsive system that ensures that we care for our communities during crises,” Simmers said.

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