SANDILE MOTHA

eThekwini residents who were displaced by floods last year remain homeless despite a R151 million relief fund announced by finance minister Tito Mboweni to help the stranded families.

Now more than 50 displaced flood victims living at Q section of the Durban’s Umlazi township in KwaZulu-Natal are still crammed in a community hall struggling to access basic needs such as water, sanitation and ablution facilities.

The residents mainly women and children were displaced by floods that severely hit the greater Durban area in three consecutive years beginning in October 2017, December 2018 and again in January 2019.

“We are packed in one place like sardines with no privacy. We do not have proper toilets and are forced to bath in front of children and other people living inside the hall. People are getting sick because of the living conditions and we live in constant fear that we might be infected with Corona virus,” laments Promise Mkhabela.

Mkhabela says their lives turned for the worse when their houses were swept by the volatile floods which killed more than 76 people and displaced hundreds of residents within the Durban area in December 2017.  

She says after before the floods she saved for two years to build a two room house which she later extended.  But before she could enjoy the fruits of her hard work it was swept away.

“We were lucky to have survived because some of my neighbours died inside their houses with their children, it was a terrible ordeal,” recalls Mkhabela.

She says about 17 residents at ekuPhumeleni settlement died when they drowned in the floods trying to swim to a place of safety, but it wasn’t to be.

Mkhabela says to add salt to injury, eThekwini Municipality promised to build houses for the survivors of the floods including orphaned children whose parents perished in the floods.

This promise, she says, came to naught despite the national treasury allocating millions of rands to the metro to provide housing relief to displaced flood victims.

“Many other people lost their livelihoods as a direct result of the floods. Some officials from the municipality visited us and made promises that by the beginning of this year we would be living in our newly built houses. We are still waiting and nothing has materialised, we feel that we have been forgotten,” she says.

Another displaced victim, Elizabeth Khuzwayo shares a similar anguish.

“Our concern is our health and that of our children. There are no ablution facilities to practice good hygiene and none of us can afford face masks or protective gear. We are about 20 adults sharing a small space and we also worry about our safety especially at night,” says Khuzwayo.

Early last year KwaZulu – Natal was one of the provinces severely affected by the floods.

Mbulelo Baloyi, provincial Human Settlement spokesperson confirmed that money was committed by government to assist flood victims.  

“The KZN Treasury in February last year allocated R49 million to eThekwini Municipality to assist the October 2017 flood victims. The municipality then began a supply chain management process appointing contractors who were to effect repairs and constructing homes for the displaced flood victims,” Baloyi says.

He adds that when the April 2019 Easter weekend floods happened, a further new SCM process kicked in to cater for the December 2018 and January 2019 flood victims.

“The municipality felt it would rather use the already appointed service provider instead of going to tender again as it was an emergency situation. Work had already begun with several hundreds houses having been built. Due to the Covid outbreak and the lockdown all construction work ceased,” he says. copyright – Mukurukuru Media

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