The KZN Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Sipho Hlomuka has confirmed that the number of fatalities from the floods and storms that have occurred in the province since mid December has risen to 24, while one person was still missing.
According to Hlomuka, there have been 18 incidents of drownings and six lightning strikes.
“This number is expected to increase following the severe thunderstorms that struck the province during the weekend,” said Hlomuka.
Hundreds of families were left destitute and homeless in Pietermaritzburg and surrounding areas since late December last year.
The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) on Monday said in one of the drownings reported in KZN, an unidentified woman drowned in the uMdloti River, in Ndwedwe, in the Ogunjini area.
The party said the victim is believed to have been trying to cross the river to attend a funeral in the Ogunjini area.
Blessed Gwala, IFP’s member of transport, community safety and liaison portfolio committee in the KZN legislature, attributed the drownings, in part, to the ANC government’s failure to provide much-needed infrastructure to rural communities.
“The Ndwedwe drowning could have been avoided if the long-abandoned bridge project, worth more than R38 million, had been completed.
“The ANC’s corruption, and the embezzlement of funds earmarked for improving the lives of the people of KZN, has plunged the province into unnecessary misery,” Gwala in a statement.
He said should the bridge have been constructed, lives would be saved as most locals cross this river daily to access healthcare services at Osindisweni Hospital.
Gwala called on KZN Transport MEC Peggy Nkonyeni to take responsibility for the numerous incomplete projects across the province.
The IFP also called for the MEC to institute an urgent investigation into the whereabouts of the funds earmarked for the construction of the Ndwedwe bridge project, and that the bridge be completed without further delay.
“The IFP is also aware of a power struggle within the Department of Transport, with one of its key officials being suspended, resulting in numerous projects stalling.
“It is unfair to deny the people of KZN their basic rights because of internal tussles,” Gwala said.