- The floods in KwaZulu-Natal are officially a provincial disaster, as of Wednesday.
- That unlocks potential funding of hundreds of millions of rands to rebuild roads and houses.
- Covid-19 has eaten into emergency reserves. But money has previously been found to help the province get back on its feet after floods.
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As of Wednesday, the floods in KwaZulu-Natal have the official status of a provincial disaster, providing access to very large sums of money for recovery and rehabilitation as the water recedes.
Mmaphaka Tau, the head of South Africa's National Disaster Management Centre, gazetted the declaration of a disaster "after assessing the magnitude and severity of the impact of the severe weather events occurring in various municipal areas of the KZN province that resulted in the loss of life and damage to property, infrastructure and the environment caused by heavy rain, flooding, strong winds, landslides etc".
That puts the KwaZulu-Natal executive in charge of managing the disaster, and requires organs of state to get involved in various forums set up to co-ordinate disaster response.
Just how much money will be at the disposal of the provincial government and other organs remains to be seen, with contingency reserves drained to fund the national response to Covid-19.
But even with the coronavirus getting priority, money was found to help KwaZulu-Natal recover from previous rounds of flooding.
The 2022 national budget set aside R26 million this year – and another R321 million next year – to "reconstruct and rehabilitate municipal infrastructure" damaged by floods in 2019 and 2020, via a municipal disaster recovery grant.
Another R145 million this year, and R326 million next year, is due to fix flood damage to schools in KwaZulu-Natal during 2019 and 2020, via an education infrastructure grant.
To fix up houses damaged in those sets of storms, R873 million was added to a human settlements development grant over two years.
On Tuesday, KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala said the province was still gathering information required to help people with immediate needs, such as shelter and clothing, and an assessment of the scale of the overall disaster would only follow later.
During a visit to the province, President Cyril Ramaphosa pledged that government will be with those affected "all the way".