Pretoria - Mpumalanga Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Mandla Msibi has partly blamed individuals illegally selling land to desperate home-seekers who eventually build near river banks, which resulted in the disaster seen in the province during the recent floods.
Yesterday, Msibi addressed the media on the extent of the damage alongside Ehlanzeni District mayor Jester Sidell and Mbombela executive mayor Sibongile Makhushe-Mazibuko.
The three politicians reported that the infrastructure damage incurred from the flash floods was estimated at around R300 million and included damage to roads, bridges, schools, clinics, houses and a police station.
Affected local municipalities in the low-lying Ehlanzeni area include Nkomazi, Mbombela and Bushbuckridge.
South Africans were taken aback when videos of a crocodile that escaped a flooded river in Matsulu outside Mbombela circulated on social media, demonstrating the levels of heavy rains that poured down on the district.
Four people reportedly lost their lives to either drowning or electrocution by flood-damaged electricity cables that were illegally connected, while an unconfirmed number of others remain missing.
The safety risks emanating from the floods have also forced provincial authorities to advise school governing bodies and headmasters to assess their conditions before allowing children and staff members to attend classes.
Msibi told the media that while floods were natural disasters, there was an element of human negligence that led to the extent of the damage incurred in Mpumalanga.
He indicated that there was a problem with traditional headmen who sold stands to residents without proper human settlement planning from the municipalities involved.
“We are going to meet with the provincial house of traditional leaders, the local house and the district houses to ensure that there is clear and proper planning.
“If there is land for human settlement, it will be identified and there will be a proper assessment of that land for the provision of services.
“We also have thugs and lawlessness. There are individuals who sell stands to people. They must be dealt with decisively.
“There are also people building on river banks, and when you go to them you find that the stands were sold to them. That must be investigated,” said Msibi.
Msibi said the affected municipalities should immediately verify the extent of the infrastructural damage within their areas in order to unlock the funds that would be needed for swift action to be taken.
Meanwhile, the Mpumalanga provincial government has welcomed the declaration of a national state of disaster relating to the floods.