Economic cost of floods will run into the billions, Ramaphosa says

Floodwaters in KwaZulu-Natal displace containers. Photo: Reuters

The economic cost of the heavy rains and floods in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of the Eastern Cape will run into billions of rands, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday night as he announced a national state of disaster.

“A comprehensive assessment of the economic cost of these floods still has to be made, but it is clear that it will run into billions of rands for the rebuilding of infrastructure and loss of production,” he said.

The extreme weather and floods have claimed 443 lives and caused severe damage to homes and infrastructure.

Critically, the Port of Durban, one of the largest and busiest shipping terminals on the continent and a vital part of the SA economy, has been severely affected. Access to the port has been disrupted by extensive damage to the Bayhead Road – a key route that links the port to the rest of the country and handles 13 000 heavy vehicles per day.

There has also been extensive damage to local businesses and public infrastructure in the flood-hit areas.

“It is going to take a massive effort, drawing on the resources and capabilities of the entire nation, to recover from this disaster. We will make financial resources available to meet this challenge,” Ramaphosa said, adding that the Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana has said that R1 billion is immediately available. Parliament will be approached for the appropriation of additional resources, he said.

The Solidarity Fund, which was set up to respond to the economic impact of Covid-19, has agreed to assist with humanitarian and other forms of relief. The fund will now set up a separate bank account for the flood disaster, the details for which will be made available to donors on the fund’s website on Tuesday.

Ramaphosa warned that resources must benefit the intended recipients.

“There can be no room for corruption, mismanagement or fraud of any sort,” he said, adding that various stakeholders, including professional bodies, business and the Auditor-General, will form an oversight structure to ensure all funds disbursed to respond to this disaster are properly accounted for and that the state receives value for money.

“We are determined that there must be transparency and accountability as the projects are costed and implemented, as well as how resources are deployed from the beginning.”