Disaster relief group Gift of the Givers founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman has responded to Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu following comments that NGOs must respond to disaster-stricken communities through the structures of government.
Zulu on Tuesday visited parts of the Buffalo City Municipality in the Eastern Cape, where flooding from the recent torrential rains left community members homeless, while others tragically died.
Addressing the community, Zulu emphasised the need for government and other stakeholders to coordinate as they respond to disaster-stricken communities, to avoid help going to those who don’t actually need it.
“The issue that I keep raising is Sassa, Social Development, NDA, must always respond on the basis of the structures of government, so that we don’t have a situation where Sassa responds on its own… You find that Sassa has one list, while government has another, and the department comes with a new one. When we do this, we make it difficult even for the stakeholders who are supposed to work with us if we are not coordinating,” said Zulu.
“One of the things we need to avoid is stakeholders who do not coordinate even among themselves, because you find that the next one comes with this, because what happens after that? You find that if there is no coordination, there are some people who tend to take things that were not meant for them and they go and sell them.
“That must come to an end and the only way that can come to an end is when government together with the stakeholders properly coordinate. The Lottery always has money and is able to act quickly; the Gift of the Givers is able to act quickly; meals on wheels has to act quickly, but even them, from the minister’s point of view, we are asking them to make sure that when they come to the community they come through the structures of government to the communities,” said Zulu.
“I know sometimes when we say they must come through the structures of government, people say ‘where is the government?’ Hello, the government is here! And the reason you see us standing here, we’re standing here because we’re a government that cares. We’re a government that needs to respond immediately. Even after I immediately saw what is happening, I said I would not run first, being the minister, to go without the local and provincial structures starting to do the work, because I’m a minister at the top. I’m supposed to look at policies, legislation, systems and the plans, but I must enable the province and local structures to start doing the work.”
Sooliman, however, says if communities have to wait for the government to come through, they will end up going for days without food.
“Government doesn’t understand three words: urgency, emergency and disaster. If people have to wait for government they’ll go for days without food and we’ve seen it happen many times before. Social development has failed the community, hopelessly. Many of the fires we’ve been to, people were waiting for food, and if we haven’t come they would be waiting for longer to get food,” Sooliman told Newzroom Afrika on Tuesday.
Sooliman said when communities are hit by disasters, there is no time to wait.
“It’s called disaster because it needs an urgent response, it can’t be something you respond to five days later. These kind of things cannot be delayed, you need to respond immediately,” Sooliman. told the news channel.
“The premier and mayor, deputy mayor called us because they know we move at speed. We work with government structures, that’s a fact. But you can’t be waiting four days to respond to people who are in dire need. The extent of this is huge and government needs support from NGOs, business, or anybody else.”
Meanwhile, KwaZulu-Natal communities have also been affected by floods, with 24 people having lost their lives, according to KwaZulu-Natal Cogta MEC Sipho Hlomuka.
“Two hundred and five incidents have affected KwaZulu-Natal people. 10, 900 people have been affected by the disaster while 2,068 households have been affected. We lost 24 lives from the province. We send our condolences. We’ll work together to address. Other officials have visited the households and disaster operation centres have been activated.”