Report problems to the correct municipal authority

2017-11-08 06:00


WHEN municipalities install storm water infrastructure, it is done against the international accepted criteria of the 10 and 15-year flood requirements. During the last storm, infrastructure was unable to cope with the sudden downpour that was equivalent to 50-year flood measurements.

There is often the misconception that it will only happen again in 50 years. This is, however, not the case, as there could be an equivalent storm immediately, hours, days, weeks of years thereafter. It only means that the measured rainfall is equivalent to of the highest measured within a 50-year period. The same would apply for the 10, 15 or the 100-year mark.

In the first instance, residents stand reminded that during and after a storm such as recently experienced, the municipal and other emergency lines will inevitably be oversubscribed or as happened in the wind storm several weeks ago. Telephone lines to call centres were as much damaged as the rest of the city, resulting in a total break in communication, save for cellular communication.

All too often residents report storm damage to the municipality, rather than to their insurance companies. While emergency services and municipal departments are tasked to ensure that roads are open or people rescued from mud slides and more, the repair or reinstatement of private property remains essentially the responsibility of the resident or home owner.

The municipality is only responsible for repairs or reinstatement on municipal or common property, unless a failure in municipal infrastructure was the direct cause of a loss or damage to private property.

Storm-water damage, resulting from a failure in municipal infrastructure must be reported to the engineering department on 080 131 3013 or email to


Residents must insist and note the reference number as conformation that the complaint has been registered into the system for attention or assessment. The reference number must be quoted when follow-up inquiries are made.

Following every storm or natural disaster there is inevitably electrical outages as wires are tough, the ground moves or poles collapse.

The eThekwini Electrical call centre operates on 080 131 3111 or email

Ensure that the street address, or in absence of a street number, the number of the closest street light pole is conveyed to the department as the officials attending faults are not always necessarily from the same area.


The electricity call centre is also inundated with calls directly and in the hours or days after a disaster and the volume and nature of reports will inevitably impact on the response time. During normal operating conditions, response to electrical faults is 24 to 48 hours (from time of report, not time of going down). In time of disaster, this could even double.

Once again, give clear and precise locations, whether one or multiple dwellings are affected, a contact name and contact number in case the department incurs challenges in finding the location or should they require additional information. A reference number will be issued and the department will repair according, but they may reprioritise as suburbs and clusters being without power will take preference to single dwellings where power could be obtained from neighbours.

Given the current circumstances, one would recommend that residents, where possible, extend consideration to installing generators or other alternative power supplies.

The protection of private property and the elimination of erosion remains essentially the responsibility of the resident or property owner. All too often corners are cut and tyres or sand bags used to support platforms with multimillion-rand properties, instead of the correct retainer material. Likewise where the correct material has been used, but incorrectly applied without the necessary drainage.

Storm water follows a natural course towards streams and rivers and eventually, the sea. During development, suburbs and land parcels were demarcated along, and in some instances, across these flow paths. With the continued increase of hardened surfaces that include building development, paving, cement or asphalt that looks better and requiring less maintenance than grassed areas, it prevents water from soaking into the soil and instead contributes towards increased storm-water flow.

This in turn and given enough rain, could turn what is normally a slow-flowing romantic garden stream with a white bench into a roaring brown river that takes along everything (including half the garden) within minutes.

This, however, does not qualify as failed municipal infrastructure being the protection of property does, as earlier mentioned, remain that of the property owner.

Waste water (sewage), fresh water and storm water are all gravity-fed to the lowest point. Too often people build without approved plans, or do renovations using unskilled or semi-skilled labour, or hope to save on plumbing costs, and then by mere ignorance, couple storm water into the sewage system.

Storm water flows much faster and requires more space (larger pipes) than waste water with the result that the system gets overload and pipes either burst or discharge through manholes resulting in sewage spillage boosted by storm water.

Likewise, can storm water be contaminated with sand, stones, branches or an array of debris that could get stuck and continue to cause sewage blockages long after the storm water has passed through.

Fallen trees were to the best of the ability, either cut during or soon after the recent storm in an effort to open roads for traffic flow. Amanzimtoti was arguably the best resourced in the aftermath of the recent disaster with crews from parks, roads and electricity applying for emergency overtime funding and working late into the night resulting in 90% of the roads being passable come daybreak.

Normal water and electricity maintenance was also put on hold as teams from local depots joined units from the call centres to replace broken water pipes and attend connections to residential dwellings.

The emergency services call centre on 031 361 000 is from where the fire brigade, ambulance, Metro Police, disaster management and emergency tree cutting is controlled and dispatched. During a disaster, their lines are oversubscribed with people often just calling in to report something that could well wait until morning.

In the aftermath, the responsibility remains with engineering to follow up on complaints received via the different call centres, councillors and departments.

Damage is quantified (October 26) the estimated damage was already at R500 000 000 with more reports coming in, after which it is prioritised. This to be followed by re-prioritising the budget which could result in projects scheduled and approved being cancelled in favour of allocation towards emergency repairs.

What will follow is a process of drafting and putting out tenders except where work is deemed so urgent that normal processes would have to be ignored and orders issued without delay (section 36 of Municipal Finance Management Act).

During times of natural disasters remain calm and collective.

Evaluate the situation and act in accordance with the real and actual threat as many have needs that are reliant on the same resources.

Extend a thought to officials and emergency workers who work long hours to get services reinstated, while their own families don’t have them around - think before abuse, it’s not always just about the overtime.

- Cllr André Beetge


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