Three weeks later, where is Parliament’s promised ad-hoc committee on the KZN floods?

Issued by John Steenhuisen MP – Leader of the Democratic Alliance
10 May 2022 in News

A soundbite from the DA Federal Leader John Steenhuisen MP is attached here

It is now four weeks since the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal, and three weeks since the announcement that Parliament would establish an ad-hoc committee to oversee the response and relief measures in the province, and yet there is still no sign of this committee.

Meanwhile, communities up and down the coast are still without water, they have severely damaged infrastructure, and many residents don’t know how to access social assistance or how to claim for damages. The economic impact of the floods include a significant disruption of the City’s port logistics and rail distribution, with Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) having just declared a seven-week Force Majeure. This is an ongoing and critical emergency, but the responses from eThekwini Metro, from national government and from the Speaker of Parliament have shown no urgency at all.

In typical ANC fashion, the speeches and announcements were quick and bold. President Ramaphosa immediately addressed the nation after the floods and promised relief funds and parliamentary involvement in overseeing the spending of these funds. The Speaker of Parliament was quick to confirm this involvement back on the 21st of April, and the ANC Chief Whip immediately put forward the idea of an ad-hoc committee, which had wide support among all parties.

Three weeks later, however, this ad-hoc committee is yet to meet and has not even elected a chair. The Speaker claims she is waiting for the name of the representative of the smaller parties, and that the committee should elect a chair next week (ten days from last Thursday). But surely this one obstacle cannot explain a three week delay in convening a committee meant to deal with a real-time emergency.

In the Parliamentary debate on the floods on the 26th of April, President Ramaphosa commended the quick decision by Parliament to set up the committee, where he also tasked this committee with monitoring the spending of relief funds to help prevent corruption. But aside from the fact that the committee has not yet met, the promised relief fund money also turned out to be smoke and mirrors, and is in fact just a reprioritising of existing budget, which has also not been done yet.

The response to the floods by eThekwini Metro is no better either. The Mayor has been entirely absent throughout the disaster, and the City’s Executive Committee has not met since the 26th of April. The DA in the eThekwini council asked for daily early-morning meetings by the Executive Committee to manage the crisis, but this was not even considered by the Mayor.

The situation in eThekwini and surrounds is dire. Hundreds of thousands of people don’t have regular water supply, the distribution of water through tankers and other means is chaotic and ineffective, there is no communication on water and electricity outages, many communities still have major sewage spills with no signs of these being repaired, there is still no clear claims process, and there are many safety and health concerns around the temporary housing of displaced residents in community halls.

Parliament has to intervene where the City is clearly failing, and it is unacceptable that this human rights emergency is treated with such apathy. I call on President Ramaphosa to step in and ensure that the bold promises he makes on TV become bold and immediate actions on the ground.