/ 25 August 2022

KZN flood victims struggle to rebuild homes

Safrica Weather Flood
Desperate: Rescuers dig for people believed to be trapped at a house in Bonela in Cato Manor, Durban, which collapsed after heavy rains. (Photo by RAJESH JANTILAL / AFP)

After roughly four months since the heavy rainfall that claimed the lives of more than 400 people in KwaZulu-Natal, flood victims living in Mariannridge ward 13 are still trying to put back the pieces of their lives. 

A debilitated wall painted in cream white and an open rooftop is all that is left of what used to be Estelle Carpede’s home, which belonged to her late mother. She says that it’s been a struggle trying to piece her life together after the April floods forced her to move in with her sister. 

“I lost everything. All my clothes, even my son’s clothes are gone. My house was washed away and there is a manhole with water still running here. I used to work day and night but I was retrenched during Covid and lost my job. If I was employed I would have started rebuilding our home already,” she said.  

Community activist Jenny Boyce says that people who own title deeds to their property have the biggest challenge because the municipality has advised that they should have had insurance on their homes.   

“At this point we are all in a process of trying to find loopholes in terms of ways around how to assist some of these families but, as you would know, it is still in the preliminary stages so we are still negotiating. But those people who have the biggest challenge are those who own a title deed of their property,” she said. 

Boyce also said that although some progress is being made, they continue to work with the municipality to assist all families affected by the floods.      

“About two months after the disaster, we called on the mayor’s office and we raised a number of concerns about how to move forward on issues of people who were affected by the floods but also on structural issues like the roads and we engaged with the deputy mayor. Some progress has been made, even though it’s slow.”

Like Carpede, a family of two who wanted to remain anonymous has been living with  Eunice Khanyile, also a resident of ward 13, who said that although the family received duvets to sleep on and food parcels, they haven’t been consistent. 

“There has been no follow up communication with the councillor. The only time he came was back when the floods had recently happened and he said that the destroyed tiles on the roof of the debilitated house need to be removed and collected because when they start rebuilding the tiles might continue to fall. So those tiles were removed, collected and stored away but nothing has happened since,” she said

Responding to Khanyile’s allegation, councillor Reginald Cloete says that formal homeowners should have insurance to claim from. However, he added that they are still working to assist the family as eThekwini deputy mayor Philani Mavundla promised to help rebuild their home.  

“I went with the deputy mayor to pay them a visit and the deputy mayor pledged to build them a house. The only thing that needs to be done is to clear the site then the constructors will be able to rebuild the house,” Cloete said. 

On Tuesday 22 August, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube said the provincial department of human settlements needs to plan and provide bulk infrastructure to speed up the building of temporary residential homes. 

Her statement followed an oversight visit by the ad hoc committee on flood disaster relief. 

“We remain committed to providing support to flood victims so that they get their lives back to normal, this should include entering into discussions with owners of residential buildings that could be utilised as a temporary intervention, while the government continues working on a permanent housing solution,” she said. 

Dube-Ncube also said that as a government it is their responsibility to provide assistance to victims of the floods saying, “members of society have no one to turn to but their government.”

“Plans to utilise some of the dilapidated buildings and those owned by the state in eThekwini have been supported by the committee. This will accommodate affected communities especially women and children who are our main priority,” the statement read. 

In light of the damage caused by the floods, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster on April 18, saying that the tragedy had “implications far beyond the province”.

“The primary responsibility to co-ordinate and manage the disaster is assigned to the national sphere of government, working closely together with provincial governments and municipalities. It enables the mobilisation of more resources, capabilities and technical expertise in providing relief, recovery and rehabilitation to affected communities,” he said.