COSATU welcomes President Ramaphosa’s announcement of a National State of Disaster in KwaZulu-Natal

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has noted President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of measures to rebuild the province of KwaZulu-Natal after the devastating floods. The Federation offers its heartfelt condolences to those who have lost loved ones as well as homes and property.

We salute the emergency rescue workers including the courageous members of the South African Police Service that are currently on search and rescue missions.  We issue a call to all workers who can make donations to the various relief operations being set up to help those in dire need. We commend the efforts of our affiliates and the provincial office for distributing food items as well as blankets to the victims of this devastation.

It is critical that government redoubles its efforts to find those who are still missing and unaccounted for to enable their families to find some closure.  More members of the SAPS and SANDF need to be deployed to help in these search and rescue missions, distribute relief, maintain law and order and prevent looting.

Urgent measures are necessary to ensure all affected persons have access to emergency supplies of food and water, as well as measures to prevent outbreaks of cholera and other deadly contagious diseases.

The government needs to help municipalities and relief organisations to provide emergency housing for those who have been displaced and assist them to rebuild their homes.  As we rebuild, local government needs to assess communities at high risk to floods and identify safer land for them to relocate to.

The government at all levels need to work with communities to plant trees and rebuild vegetation, where vegetation and trees have been removed on slopes to avert mud slides. Alternatives to firewood for heating need to be provided to such communities.

SASRIA and insurers must work with speed to ensure that insurance payments are expedited.  The government and banks must provide financial relief to those affected, including those who have lost jobs and property to enable them to get back on their feet.  This should include additional temporary social grants for the poor, debt relief for consumers and tax rebates for businesses in affected communities.

The floods are a stark reminder of the damage done by corruption, state capture, austerity budget cuts and incompetent management.  Plans are needed to ensure all municipalities have competent and qualified management and that our infrastructure, including storm water drainage, roads, bridges, dams, and ports are properly maintained.

Climate change will increasingly pose a risk to lives and livelihoods especially to the poor and working-class communities. The floods are yet again a reminder that climate change is not an issue for the future but an issue that must be urgently addressed. As government builds back affected communities, climate resilient infrastructure is needed to prevent future destruction to infrastructure. 

We have seen it with the droughts in the three Cape Provinces, fires in Cape Town, floods in KZN and water scarcity in Gauteng.  This means that government needs to put in place plans to mitigate the impact of climate change, address its causes and work to reverse it.  This includes the need to work with business, labour, and communities as these challenges require all of us to put our shoulders to the wheel if we are to overcome them.

Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911

Fax: 011 339 5080

Cell: 060 975 6794