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Poor infrastructure maintenance 'root cause of severe April flood damage'

Businessman Thulani Nduli (in front) with MEC for economic development Simiso Duma and eThekwini municipality speaker Thabani Nyawose assess damage caused by floods to his business in Umlazi.
Businessman Thulani Nduli (in front) with MEC for economic development Simiso Duma and eThekwini municipality speaker Thabani Nyawose assess damage caused by floods to his business in Umlazi.

A Durban businessman has highlighted the city’s poor infrastructure maintenance as the main reason for the damage caused by last year’s April floods.

Entrepreneur Comfort Nzama said the city had allowed households and “illegal structures” to be built on top of services such as drainage systems and this  played a direct role in the damage to businesses.

“The reason our property was flooded is because drains were not working and, as a result, there is a permanent leak in our building and the walls are sliding. The building can be washed away at any time ... so some of the blame [goes to] the poor maintenance of poor infrastructure,” said Nzama.

He urged the city to attend to infrastructure maintenance issues because more floods could still cause similar, if not worse, damage to businesses and households if the drainage issues are not be resolved.

“I suggest that we attend to the infrastructure problem as soon as possible because if we have another flood that retaining wall would be washed away and formal structures will be affected,” he said.

He was pointing to the retaining wall that separates his property and the many households behind it in Umlazi’s V section. Nzama owns a property that has a PB garage and a piece of land earmarked for future development in the popular Mbe Road, just 300m from Max’s Lifestyle.

Detailing his losses, Nzama said they couldn’t add businesses like Pick n Pay, Chicken Licken, Nandos and Pie City because contractors figured they could see it flooding at any time. His total losses over the 12 months from the April amounted to millions.

“We’re down on our turnover by 30% and if we were to convert that to rand we dropped from R6m  to R4m,” he said.

“Our structural engineers advised us that this wall is risky because of the weight on it since the drain is no longer working behind it.”

Nzama is one of three small-business owners in Umlazi who were visited by KZN's MEC for economic development, tourism and the environmental (EDTEA), Siboniso Duma, on Tuesday to assess the damage caused by the April/May 2022 floods and those in  February this year.

Duma admitted that the challenges regarding stormwater and drainage systems were among the matters that had an impact during the floods in eThekwini.

“That is why, with the planning section of eThekwini, we should create a task team that is going to monitor that. We are here just for that. Historically, because the torrential rains were not that hard we might have used smaller pipes. We have just declared that from now onwards all our pipes must be big, the 900 specification,” said Duma.

He said they would consider inviting the human settlements department to create a “property system” that would come up with ways to deal with people building in areas that are at risk during floods.

“There are still people building on flood lines ... We might be compelled even to create a space where we take people from those places,” he said.

Duma, together with eThekwini council speaker Thabani Nyawose, were also checking the three SMMEs' suitability for the department’s Flood Relief Business Support Fund, which was launched on Tuesday.

They also visited the Exit car wash and shisanyama outside Umlazi Mega City as well as Indofire butchery and Shisanyama in L section.

Thulani Nduli, owner of Indofire, said they had to stop operations for almost three months because the roads to his business were affected.

“The fridges were affected. Outside, the boundary wall and the toilets were washed away,” he said.

Duma said the fund would be administered by Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal (TIKZN) and would see each qualifying business receiving up to R1.5m  in grants to offset losses.

“The fund was specifically established to assist with the reviving of business to accelerate social, economic, and spatial transformation in KZN. Priority for funding will be given to businesses based in the townships, rural areas and small towns hit by the floods,” he said.

The fund will prioritise small and informal sector businesses in townships, rural areas and small towns who were either uninsured or underinsured. They must be owned by South African citizens in KZN, must be registered with Sars and the CIPC and should have been operational before the floods.

Businesses including labour brokers, gun manufacturers and traders, NPOs, political parties, speculative property developers and the sex trade would not be eligible for funding.

Applications are open until April 21 and further information is available on the TIKZN website, www.tikzn.co.za



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