Citizen Reporter
5 minute read
21 Apr 2022
3:43 pm

KZN relief efforts mired in protests, looting and distrust of government

Citizen Reporter

It's a dog-eat-dog world out in KZN, with mounting fears that corrupt officials will steal money and aid meant for disaster victims.

Part of Caversham road in Pinetown has been washed away on April 12, 2022 in Durban, South Africa. Picture: Gallo Images/Darren Stewart

Residents of the flood-ravaged province of KwaZulu-Natal have been trying to piece their lives back together after having their homes and lives ripped apart by torrential rains that damaged crucial infrastructure, roads and property earlier this month.

But the road to recovery is proving tougher than officials expected, with incidents of looting and protests breaking out in the wake of the flood aftermath.

As the days progressed, KZN residents’ mistrust and lack of faith in local government became apparent amid fears that donations and aid worth billions making their way into the province would be stolen.

eThekwini officials scrambling as protests break out

Shortly after the floods, frustrated residents took to the streets, demanding faster repairs and reconnection of basic services such as electricity and water.

Umgeni Water reported extensive damage to its bulk water supply pipes resulting in cut-off supply to suburbs and towns, while flooded power stations left residents with no electricity.

Private security group Reaction Unit South Africa (RUSA) reported the first protests in the Canelands and Verulam areas where communities began blocking the R102 north and south lanes with rocks and burning tyres.

Residents were demanding that eThekwini provide alternative housing for displaced families, who’d been without shelter since the storms broke out.

Hours later protests quickly spread to other suburbs in Ntuzuma, KwaMashu, Reservoir Hills, Mayville and Umlazi, which hindered municipality workers from accessing those areas to reconnect services.

“Disgruntled residents that embark on violent service delivery protests are going to reverse the gains made under these very difficult circumstances,” Mxolisi Kaunda, eThekwini mayor said.

If that wasn’t enough eThekwini reported on 19 April 2022 that a fire had broken out at the Marrianridge High Voltage substation, that left the facility with ‘extensive damage’, on top of flood damage.

eThekwini Municipality said that an investigation is underway into the cause of the fire.

“There is always a threat of explosions at medium to high voltage substations after floods.”

Repairs to the Prospecton Substation south of Durban are also underway.

Looters target washed away containers a stranded trucks

Soon after dozens of shipping containers washed onto the N2 highway south of Durban, desperate residents with seemingly no regard for their personal safety swam through the flooded highway to access the contents inside the containers.

These were the first incidents of looting reported on 12 April 2022, mere hours into the flood aftermath.

Heavy-duty trucks that were already en route to Durban as the storms hit, found themselves stuck in a traffic backlog before Mariannhill Toll Plaza, making them sitting ducks for looters in the surrounding communities.

The trucks stranded on the N3 between Lynnfield Park and Ashburton were also targeted.

As a result, the Road Freight Association advised trucks headed to Durban to delay departures and find safe deports for parking if they were waiting to gain access to the city’s Port.

A day later (13 April 2022) around 9 pm in the evening, Umlazi residents ransacked a Shoprite Usave and other supermarkets in the area.

Police spokesperson in KZN Nqobile Gwala confirmed the arrest of 12 suspects on the shop premises in Umlazi H and J sections.

The suspects are facing charges of burglary of a business and possession of stolen property.

In another looting spree, a Shoprite truck that was stuck on Dumisani Makhaye Drive in Durban was also attacked by residents.

In the video shared by Deputy Head Metro police Steve Middleton, shots were fired by the SAPS and metro police in an attempt to disperse the plunderers.

ALSO WATCH: 12 arrested after Umlazi supermarkets looted in aftermath of KZN floo

Fears that government will steal aid

The audacious pillaging of Covid-19 relief funds totalling R7.6 billion, that was meant to assist businesses and struggling households, in addition to the R50 billion estimated to have been stolen during state capture are still fresh in the minds of South Africans.

So, it comes as no surprise that citizens live in fear that aid worth billions of rand, meant for KZN flood victims, would eventually line the pockets of greedy politicians.

KZN’s Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Sipho Hlomuka has promised the Auditor-General’s office would monitor how these donated resources and funds are dispersed.

This might have been a chance for the government to redeem themselves but a recent video of the eThekwini officials, who were caught allegedly stealing food meant for rescue teams may hasn’t helped the corruption stained governments efforts to reassure people.

According to Daily Maverick volunteers who were at Virginia Airport to arrange the packages for both flood victims and rescue teams were surprised to see three eThekwini vehicles making their way in.

It is reported the three officials then loaded the care packs into the cars.

“At one stage during the day, one or more council staff were seen opening and eating from the prepared bags. The volunteers queried this conduct and expressed their concern,” Democratic Alliance councillor Shontel de Boer told the publication.

South African born actress Charlize Theron has also rallied her global fan base to donate funds.

But she was immediately warned against donating money directly to the government, instead referring the Monster actress to the humanitarian relief group Gift of the Givers.

Compiled by Kgomotso Phooko

Additional information by  Amanda Watson and Narissa Subramoney

ALSO READ: Billions pour in for aid but South Africans worried government will steal it