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By Getrude Makhafola

Premium Journalist

KZN floods: MPs worried communities will be left high and dry after September

Members of Parliament were concerned about municipalities' ability to help destitute communities in KZN.

The lack of proper governance and near-collapse of municipal services came to the fore in Parliament, as MPs bemoaned the impending September withdrawal of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) from the flood-hit KwaZulu-Natal.

Parliament’s joint standing committee on defence was on Thursday night briefed by the SANDF on army projects undertaken to help restore damaged roads, bridges and water supply in the province.

In June, President Cyril Ramaphosa extended army deployment to 15 September this year.

Dubbed ‘Operation Chariot’, soldiers were sent as part of the National Disaster to assist with mop-up work, extraction, technical assessments, and transport of humanitarian relief equipment and goods.

What are the plans for after army withdrawal?

ANC MP Mike Basopu asked how the affected communities will be looked after once the troops withdraw from the province.

“What is Cogta and the municipalities doing? Provision of water is a municipal function, what exactly are they doing? How are these projects going to be sustained when our army pulls out?” he asked.

ALSO READ: WATCH | Parliamentary committee ditch Tongaat visit due to water protest

Other MPs inquired whether the army was still in Tongaat, following residents’ protests on Thursday against lack of water.

Cogta to take over

Major General K Nompetsheni said local government will take over the projects.

“Cogta and the responsible councils will carry on once the SANDF pulls out. However, we will be there for as long as we are needed… that is up to the president, but we are available whenever needed.

“We are still in Tongaat, but the water we send through is not enough. I think it’s high time we call on local government to take responsibility when it comes to servicing communities… I think the SANDF have played its part so far.”

According to Nompetsheni, troops delivered 20 000 litres of water every day to communities in areas such as KwaMashu, Ndengezi, Nanda, Pinetown and many others since their arrival in April. At least 5000 litres of water is being delivered to seven schools daily.

His presentation was accompanied by photographs documenting the operation, receiving accolades from the MPs.

READ MORE: KZN floods: Zikalala warns more flooding could hit the province

The soldiers cleared debris from roads, unblocked drains, rescued residents and recovered bodies, cleaned up beaches and helped distribute donated food and goods to flood victims.

“We are still delivering water to KwaMashu, Tongaat, Sizela and Intake,” he said.

Army more trusted than local government

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP Tseko Mafanya remarked that communities trusted the army to deliver than the local authorities, and asked whether there were still missing persons yet to be found.

“We saw that during last year’s riots… our army tends to be abused because people trust the SANDF than the police. Where other departments fail, the army is expected to step in and do the work.

“We know that many families are yet to find closure, their loved ones are still missing. Is the SANDF still recovering bodies?”

Nompetsheni said the operations to search for those presumed dead continued.

“The fact that there are still bodies not found is a concern to us. Our hope is that this extension to September will further enable us to find the missing persons and bring closure to the grieving families.”

On Thursday, the Ad Hoc Joint Committee on Flood Disaster Relief and Recovery’s plan to visit Tongaat and conduct follow-up visits was canned due to community protest.

Parliamentary communication service said the visit was cancelled on the last minute due to “safety concerns” from the protests.

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