Govt abandoned us after earthquake – Orkney residents

2014-09-23 18:49

Residents of the township of Khuma near Orkney say they feel abandoned by government as they try to pick up the pieces of their damaged houses and rebuild more than a month after an earthquake hit the area.

“They abandoned us and we don’t know what is happening. No one is saying anything,” said Dalton Melato today.

“We have been removed from our houses but we don’t know when we will be able to go back in.”

Melato’s house was among the more than 600 houses damaged when a 5.5 magnitude earthquake hit the township in August. A 31-year-old man was killed and at least 34 miners were injured.

Government at the time said those affected would be assisted and the houses severely damaged were declared unsafe for occupation. Families were told to move to safer locations and others moved to a community centre.

Melato asked what would have happened had he and his family moved to the centre. He said he was not sure whether government would have kept its promise to take care of them at the centre.

He lamented having to stay at someone else’s house while he has his own home.

“Staying in someone’s house with your family while you have you have your own house is not nice,” he said.

Another resident, Nozipho Emvula, who is also a street committee member, said she was disappointed with how government was handling the disaster in the township. She said many people had been left to fend for themselves and had to watch as other households were given groceries.

Emvula, whose house was also damaged, said vehicles from the department of social developments were seen in her street delivering groceries but it was not to all those affected by the earthquake.

“We see Sassa cars passing and delivering groceries to certain houses but they skip our houses. The situation here is heartbreaking,” she said.

Emvula said residents were not receiving feedback from government regarding when the houses would be fixed. She said the situation was even making them consider not voting during the upcoming local government elections.

“We have decided not to vote in the upcoming elections because we are not getting any help when we need it,” she said.

SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) North West spokesperson Smanga Selemeni said that in the aftermath of the quake, information was collated on which families were affected and to what extent.

“This was used to determine who gets what ... If we are not giving some families, probably they did not appear on the list.

“Also, the distribution of those food parcels is governed by the regulations of the Social Assistance Act.”

In terms of the Act, prospective beneficiaries needed to submit information on their household income and whether anyone in the family received a social grant.

“Other families could have been excluded as a result of those regulations, [because] they don’t qualify,” said Selemeni.

North West provincial government spokesperson Bonolo Mohlakoana said that an assessment on the extent of the damage was complete but a request for funding had not yet been sent to the National Disaster Management Centre.

Asked why it had taken so long for this to happen, Mohlakoana said that there were not enough structural engineers to do the assessment of the houses. Also, the list of properties requiring assessment kept growing as people phoned in to report damage.

“The assessment has been done, now they are working on the cost implications, which we will send to the National Disaster Management Centre soon.”

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