Focus on handling disasters

2015-08-21 10:23


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Pietermaritzburg - Disaster management in the country is being reviewed as government admits that in many instances, especially in sector departments and local municipalities, little or no organisational capacity for disaster management exists.

Speaking at a public hearing committee at the KZN Legislature on Thursday, Dumisani Ngema of the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), said that the implementation of disaster management “has posed significant challenges, particularly at the level of local municipalities”.

Ngema said to help bolster the country’s disaster preparation, disaster management centres would be established in each municipality.

Another new aspect to the country’s planning is that the impact and risks associated with climate change will now be included the amended Disaster Management Plan for the country.

Further comments on the amendment were heard with input from political leadership, International Federation of Red Cross, South African Local Government Association (Salga), National Disaster Management Advisory Forum (NDMAF), Disaster Management Institute of Southern Africa (DMISA), academics and practitioners.

Ngema said while organs of state, such as Eskom, are required to plan and submit their disaster management plan to the national committee, few of these plans have been received. He said Eskom was one that failed to submit their disaster management plan.

As an example of a disaster, he said: “Everybody is talking about a widespread blackout, so Eskom must develop their plan and submit it to all national spheres.”

He also spoke about Transnet, saying that they would need to plan around scenarios like an oil pipeline bursting.

In a recent article, The Witness revealed the extent of chaos that could ensue if Eskom’s power generating capacity were to fail and the grid were to collapse, resulting in a major blackout.

In the article, which was a bid to ascertain the city’s readiness for such a disastrous situation, The Witness asked key ­authorities how they were planning for the possibility of a major blackout.

The Witness reported that most departments approached were reluctant to provide firm information on their preparedness for an electricity shutdown, or to provide pragmatic advice on what residents should do in the event of a blackout.

While many of the responses that were received were vague and evasive, in other instances, spokespeople for authorities passed the buck to another department. The Department of Health refused to respond at all.

Ngema said the purpose of the review was to tackle these challenges by “maximising the effect of disaster management legislation to communities, especially those most at risk”.

It was reported that women, children, the elderly and the disabled must be prioritised in the amended bill and attended to first should a disaster arise.

The amendment bill is now calling upon public entities to provide written submission to provincial legislature.

Once the bill is passed into law, the Cogta will have sessions to engage with provinces and municipalities and circulars will also be distributed to stakeholders. Public entities can send their written submissions to ndlovumz@kznleg. by August 25, 2015.

Read more on:    cogta  |  pietermaritzburg

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