By Siphelele Dludla for IOL
Image credit: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)
The business sector has welcomed the declaration of a National State of Disaster to tackle the severe economic impact of the floods which resulted in deaths, damage to infrastructure and loss of production.
Last week’s devastating floods left untold destruction and at least 443 people dead while almost 50 others are unaccounted for.
Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) yesterday (TUES) said the declaration of a disaster signalled the seriousness with which the government was tackling the task, as well as the lessons learned from the emergency responses in the last few years.
BLSA chief executive Busi Mavuso said urgent lifesaving support must be a priority, but it was important that businesses and the authorities also focus on restoring transport connections.
“The search and recovery effort is clearly the priority, while also bringing immediate relief to those who are vulnerable,” Mavuso said.
“But it is also important that we swiftly deal with the economic impact of the floods, particularly to unlock key logistics routes. The recovery thereafter is going to be critical as we rebuild infrastructure.”
Mavuso said that unnecessary delays in resuming normal operations meant a greater cost to the economy, resulting in lost employment and revenue.
“However, even properly maintained infrastructure cannot meet the effects of climate change,” she said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday night declared a national state of disaster to ensure an effective response to the extreme weather events.
Extreme flooding in KZN and in some parts of Eastern Cape a week ago left nearly 4 000 homes completely destroyed and more than 8 300 others partially damaged.
It is also estimated that more than 40 000 people have been displaced by the floods.
Supply chains were disrupted as damage to Bayhead Road which handles 13 000 heavy vehicles per day, prevented access to the Port of Durban.
“The damage caused to businesses in the area has not been fully quantified, but assessments so far suggest that the eThekwini Metro accounts for nearly half of all the reported damage,” Ramaphosa said.
“The Port of Durban – which is one of the largest and busiest shipping terminals on the continent and which is vital to our country’s economy – has been severely affected.”
Bank of America’s sub-Saharan Africa economist Tatonga Rusike said agriculture and mining were two key sectors that could be directly affected by disruption at the port.
“Movement of coal exports has already been facing structural constraints with Transnet rail system limiting amount of production volumes,” Rusike said.
“Shipping containers have been displaced and affected Transnet’s decision to halt operations temporarily. The Port of Durban is also a regional hub for goods including vehicle exports and imports for neighboring countries.”
Ramaphosa vowed to prevent corruption, mismanagement and fraud in the R1 billion funding that will be appropriated to provide relief and to rebuild KZN.
Corruption Watch executive director Karam Singh said the best way to ensure that funds were correctly allocated and spent, was to have systems in place that allow government, oversight bodies and civil society to monitor the allocations and spending.
“There must be absolute transparency and full disclosure of how these funds are being distributed, ensuring that they reach the communities for whom they are intended,” Singh said.
“The Auditor-General must be activated to do real time audits of spending, in a potentially effective and appropriate preventative measure that should be used in this instance.”