PRETORIA, March 13 – The current drought and water scarcity being experienced across South Africa was on Tuesday declared a national state of disaster by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize.
“In the case of the prevailing drought, the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs has the legal authority in terms of the Disaster Management Act 2002 to declare a national state of disaster through notice in the Government Gazette, which is expected today [Tuesday] at around 10am,” Mkhize said as he addressed reporters in Cape Town.
“Accordingly, and in an effort to augment the arrangements that have already been put in place and following the recommendations of the IMTT [the Inter-Ministerial Task Team on Drought and Water], as the minister responsible for disaster management I have recognised that special circumstances exist, and have decided to declare the drought as a national state of disaster in terms of Section 27 (1) of the Act.”
Mkhize clarified that the difference between “disaster classification” and “declaration of a state of disaster” is that when the disaster has been classified, but not declared, then the responsible sphere of government – municipal, provincial or national – must deal with the disaster within the parameters of its existing legislation and contingency arrangements.
“It is important at this point to indicate that the declaration of a state of disaster at any level is not primarily aimed at requesting funding. It is aimed at activating extraordinary measures which might include funding, based on the need and other relevant conditions to address the impact of such a disaster. Resources, of both technical and financial, should be mobilised by all spheres of government, private sector, non-governmental organisations and communities to implement intervention measures and consider recovery in the long term.”
Regarding government interventions following the declaration of the disaster, Mkhize said the National Joint Drought Coordinating Committee will meet monthly and continue coordinating integrated multi-sectoral intervention measures to address the drought situation.
“With regards to funding, government stands ready to provide financial assistance where necessary and subject to legal prescripts. During the Budget Speech, the Minister of Finance stated that a provisional allocation of R6 billion has been set aside in the 2018/19 financial year for several purposes, including drought relief and to augment public infrastructure investment,” said Mkhize.
“I hereby wish to report that measures are being put in place to ensure that requests for funding are being considered as received from the provinces and we will report progress in the next briefing.”
The declaration on Tuesday will cover a period of three months, and government will re-assess if the state of disaster will have to be prolonged he added.