- The government says it's prioritising the reconstruction of KwaZulu-Natal infrastructure after the April floods.
- It has identified a number of repair projects primarily on the N2 and N3 highways, as well as the strategic roads that ferry goods to the Port of Durban.
- In the meantime, it has decided to offer relief through the suspension of some toll fees.
The government has suspended some toll fees on Durban roads affected by flooding in April. It is also in discussion with Toyota and the City of eThekwini on how to help the car manufacturer restore production at its Prospecton plant to full capacity.
Toyota South Africa Motors recently told Fin24 that it will likely end up losing around 45 000 units in production due to the impact of the recent flood damage at its manufacturing plant south of Durban.
During President Cyril Ramaphosa's engagement with the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, he said the reconstruction of KwaZulu-Natal's economy was on top of the government's priority list.
"As government, we are firmly committed to give the business community in KwaZulu-Natal all the necessary support, resources and technical capacity to recover from these catastrophic events," said Ramaphosa.
He added that the damage to key economic infrastructure, including roads, the Port of Durban, energy distribution and water, had made it challenging for businesses around eThekwini to operate as they were still struggling to recover from the July 2021 unrest and Covid-19 lockdowns.
He assured businesses that the government was working on repairing the damaged infrastructure. Roads connecting the Port of Durban, the clearing of the port terminal, repairs to the sea-walls, and the draining of excess water from rail lines, were all underway, said Ramaphosa.
"With regards to port traffic, capacity has been restored and the port has handled more than 100 vessels since the 13th of April 2022 and tugs are all operating at full capacity. Terminal operations are also back at full capacity," he said.
Road repairs, suspension of toll fees
Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula said some of the damaged road infrastructure would take longer to repair.
But the government recognised that it needed to take action to keep things going in the affected areas, he said.
It therefore suspended toll fees in some of the affected areas. The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) would lead the relief programme.
"We briefly came in KwaZulu-Natal and made our own assessments working with different districts and municipalities. That resulted in the immediate action plan that we are implementing in the affected areas; N2, N3," said Mbalula.
But the government still needed to make a plan about how to fund the repairs of damaged roads because Sanral's balance sheet had been affected by the e-tolls impasse.
Mbalula said the e-tolls matter would be tabled again before the Cabinet "very soon". And that should help the government answer the question of how to fund road infrastructure in the long-term.
"The decision is imminent... it is going to be taken because we have agreed, in conclusion with the minister of finance, in relation of what needs to be done," said Mbalula.
Ramaphosa said a number of road repair projects had been identified in KZN. But the government's immediate focus would be on the N2 and N3 highways, as well as the strategic roads that ferried goods to the Port of Durban.
'Aged infrastructure' in need of urgent repairs
Minister of Water and Sanitation, Senzo Mchunu, said it's not just roads that needed the government's urgent attention.
Most of eThekwini and other municipalities' water and sanitation infrastructure needed to be repaired.
For instance, 40% of municipal water in the country was lost through leaks, which made it hard to increase water flowing from other municipalities to help Durban deal with the flood aftermath.
Areas like Tongaat didn't have water until this week when protests erupted, and the SA Human Rights Commission started investigating.
The government had repaired a number of pipes which were now functioning "temporarily" but it needs a permanent solution.
"Our infrastructure is not ageing. It has aged. To say it is ageing is to be very polite. To a large extent, it has gone far beyond its useful age, and that includes eThekwini. We should be very hard at work in eThekwini replacing that," said Mchunu.
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