As the construction of Temporary Residential Units (TRUs) continues, KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Sihle Zikalala, says the provincial government's focus is to accommodate more than 4 396 families that were accommodated in halls, churches and schools following heavy rains in the province.
Zikalala said the province has been able to make remarkable progress working across spheres, and with the support and leadership of the entire national government, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
"At least 206 TRUs have been completed to date and there is progress in identifying land for further building. So far, four properties under Tongaat Hullet have been identified.
"Of the land identified in other parts of the province, 258 land parcels (41.88%) do not have geophysical constraints, with 5.8%) out of these being in eThekwini," Zikalala said.
Unsuitable land parcels delays provision of permanent structures
Zikalala acknowledged that the availability of land parcels suitable for the building of TRUs has been a major constraint to the finalisation of accommodation challenge, and has delayed the building of TRUs and the provision of permanent structures, as part of the recovery.
"Provincial government is concerned about people continuing to live in shelters as this is not only stagnating the lives of victims, but our social cluster departmental budgets are now getting exhausted. The priority is to get our communities back on their feet and for them to use their skills and talents to take out a living away from the shelters," the Premier said.
Zikalala added that one thing they are learning from this disaster is that the laws and by-laws need to be improved to facilitate a speedy response to emergencies.
He said the provincial government is noting that by-laws still require compliance and adherence even in a disaster "as if a person wants to build a house under normal circumstances".
"This should change and so should the applications and funding approvals process for immediate relief, as well as the sourcing of land. We are also experiencing a situation where in sharp contrast to public pronouncements to be part of the solution to the disaster, owners are doubling and trebling land prices when approached by government for the re-housing of flood victims.
"Consequently, land has become a huge stumbling block to the disaster intervention. We need to debate if existing laws and regulations should not for the future, during disasters be amended to include the expropriation of land through a swift process. Our laws and by-laws are meant to facilitate recovery and should not in emergencies and life and death situations serve as an impediment," the Premier said.
He said a land that is about five kilometres is required from social amenities, including schools for flood victims and next to economic opportunities and workplaces.
"Government has also noted with concern resistance from some established communities who are opposed to the resettling of flood victims on government-owned land next to their properties, under what is called 'NIMBY' or the 'Not in My Backyard' syndrome.
"Yet these are communities that attempted to occupy moral high ground claiming to be in solidarity with the homeless flood victims. The reality is that government cannot build TRUs on the very unsuitable land that saw homes being washed away in the floods," Zikalala said.