News in South Africa 20th April:

1. National state disaster extended:

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says the government plans to keep its latest national state of disaster in place for a period of at least three months to assist those impacted by the heavy flooding in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of the Eastern Cape.

National state disaster extended
Image taken by: Denniz Futalan

Briefing media on Tuesday (19 April) Dlamini-Zuma said it was necessary to introduce a state of disaster due to the magnitude and severity of the damage caused by the severe weather events and it will assist with the coordination and integration of the government’s response efforts and rebuilding programmes.

“The benefits of reclassifying the provincial disaster as a national disaster include that the primary responsibility to coordinate and manage the disaster is assigned to the national sphere of government.

“The declaration of a national disaster also strengthens the commitment of National Government departments to fulfil its role in providing relief, recovery and rehabilitation to affected communities.

“The declaration signals that government as a whole intends to deal with the impact of the severe weather on KZN and other provinces in an even more holistic manner through an integrated and coordinated approach across the spheres of government and employing the District Development Model.”

The floods have resulted in untold suffering and misery with about 4,000 homes destroyed, almost 9,000 homes partially damaged and more than 40,000 people left homeless or displaced, Dlamini-Zuma said.

She added that the Disaster Management Act is likely to be extended due to the extent of damage to infrastructure.

2. Assistance with floods:

Ministers have assured KwaZulu-Natal residents that efforts will be ramped up to help millions of residents who remain without water power and basic supplies more than a week after deadly storms hit the province.

Following up a declaration of a national state of disaster, President Cyril Ramaphosa dispatched top ministers to the City of Durban and KwaZulu-Natal where at least 448 people have now died and 40,000 were affected.

Preliminary costs of damages to health facilities in KwaZulu-Natal are estimated to be over R187-million, according to the Health Department.

The team will be led by department Director-General Dr Sandile Buthelezi.

An estimated 23 hospitals, 34 clinics, three Community Health Centres and five office buildings have been damaged.

Five more bodies were recovered on Tuesday.

More than 600 schools have been damaged by the floods, with 101 rendered inaccessible.

Matric pupils are anxiously counting the days before they return to the classroom as the schools were undergoing construction.

Despite promises from president Cyril Ramaphosa that relief efforts in KwaZulu Natal would be carefully monitored and free of corruption, news has already spread of an attempted hijacking of care packages by eThekwini authorities.

Footage emerged of council-marked vehicles trying to transport the care packages away. The city denied that the items were being hijacked and said they were destined for distressed communities.

The packages were donated by private businesses specifically for rescue workers and volunteers. Witnesses reported seeing the council workers opening and consuming the packages.

3. Joburg to Durban train:

China is actively talking to South Africa about a high-speed rail link between Johannesburg and Durban, its ambassador says – a plan that has been around for well over a decade, most of that time in cold storage, but re-emerged again last year.

Chinese investment in South Africa has created 400,000 local jobs, Chinese ambassador to SA Chen Xiaodong told a job fair last week, and 100 Chinese companies have committed to creating 20,000 more jobs over the next three years.

“China stands ready to work with South Africa to move China-South Africa ties forward towards a deeper level and broader scope,” he said. That is due to happen by way of everything from vocational training initiatives to cellphone giant Huawei’s plan to hire 450 people in SA. And, among the long list of things the countries will and may do together is to build a really fast train.

“We are also continuing to connect with South Africa on major projects, such as a Joburg-Durban high-speed railway,” said Chen.

That plan has a long and very fraught history, with the potential to have a tangible impact on South Africa’s credit rating.

Funding – for what could be the biggest ever investment in a single transport project in South Africa, dwarfing the likes of the Gautrain – would be a stumbling block, everyone agreed, but various Chinese companies appeared ready to provide vendor and project finance.

4. Construction mafia derailing projects:

The so-called construction mafia has created a crisis by derailing infrastructure projects that are a key component of the South African government’s post Covid-19 pandemic economic reconstruction and recovery plan.

It has contributed to frequent criticism of the government’s planned R96 billion infrastructure expenditure programme for its slow to non-existent implementation.

Bargaining Council for the Civil Engineering Industry (BCCEI) operations manager Lindie Fourie said the problem of intimidation, extortion and violence on construction sites has reached crisis levels and requires an urgent and collaborative response.

The task of rolling back the disruption of vital infrastructure projects now needs all stakeholders to be actively involved in supporting renewed police action against these increasingly brazen criminal elements, she said.

National African Federation for the Building Industry president Aubrey Phalatse said many infrastructure projects countrywide have been disrupted by the construction mafia and believes law enforcement must isolate the criminals from people who have legitimate concerns and issues they want addressed.

President Cyril Ramaphosa admitted in his State of the Nation Address in February that South Africa needs to confront the criminal gangs that invade construction sites and other business places to extort money from companies.

Ramaphosa said this requires a focused and coordinated response and government has therefore established specialised multi-disciplinary units to address economic sabotage, extortion at construction sites and vandalism of infrastructure.

“We will make resources available to recruit and train an additional 12 000 new police personnel to ensure that the SAPS [South African Police Service] urgently gets the capacity it needs,” he said.

5. Students failing:

No-fee and former Model-C schools have agreed that gaps in attendance due to Covid-19 disruptions have resulted in new grade 8s battling to adjust to high school.

435 of 509 pupils in grade 8 at Masan Secondary School in Mpumalanga and 300 of 418 students at Pakamani Senior Secondary School in the Eastern Cape failed the first quarterly tests.

The Education Department and education experts previously warned that the Covid pandemic and truncated school schedules would have many negative long-term effects.

All information sourced from articles posted by: BusinessTech, ENCA, EWN, Daily Maverick, Business Insider, Moneyweb, and TimesLive.

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