Shack dwellers and the politics of floods

Torrential rain on Monday, 22 April, left a swathe of destruction in informal settlements in and around Durban. All photos are supplied.

According to Mqapheli Bonono of Abahlali baseMjondolo it will take the people living in informal settlements in Durban the longest time to get their lives back together again.

Abahlali baseMjondolo, a social movement of people living in informal settlements, have warned of potential corruption in that money intended for the victims of floods in Durban could be used for political party campaigning ahead of the general elections on the 8th of May. Informal settlements in Durban were ravaged by flash floods on Monday.

Speaking to Elitsha, Mqhapheli Bonono of Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM) said that they believe that not all the money that is meant for flood relief will reach the victims. “Corruption is going to be the biggest factor when donations and money is being distributed. We believe that because of the upcoming general elections, some of the money will be used for political party campaigning instead of assisting the victims to get back on their feet,” said Bonono, Abahlali’s deputy president.

Bonono visited six of their branches that were heavily affected by the floods. “Most of the people I interacted with had lost all of their furniture and some houses were swept away. Those whose houses were still standing had lost their groceries, medication, clinic cards, school uniforms and children’s birth certificates,” said Bonono.

Abahlali baseMjondolo argues that the eThekwini Municipality failed to prepare for Monday’s flash floods in the city of Durban despite floods in 2017. The municipality has replied that the city’s drainage system could not cope with the heavy rain.

“It is going to take a long time for them to bounce back and got their lives back together. For a poor person living in a shack it will take the rest of the year for them to recover,” he said.

Abahlali baseMjondolo according to Bonono is a membership-based social movement with 32 branches in KwaZulu-Natal. Bonono said that they believe that the eThekwini Municipality did not learn from the 2017 flash floods as they were not prepared for the kind of weather that they experienced this week. However, eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said that the city’s drainage system is fine and working well but that the rains were heavy and continued for more than 12 hours.

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The 2017 floods left a swathe of destruction, claiming the lives of nine people, including a 19-month-old baby and a 12-year-old child. According to media reports, 51 people have died from Monday’s floods.

According to media reports, 36 bodies are still waiting to be identified at Pinetown Medico-Legal Mortuary.

Though the eThekwini Municipality initiated a climate change strategy in 2004, it has not been able to say how far the strategy has been implemented.

On Wednesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa visited affected areas in Durban and promised that the Treasury department will allocate disaster relief funds to help those who are affected by the storm. He is expected to visit some areas of the Eastern Cape that have also experienced flooding.

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