Commercial activities have shut down and several key road networks have been closed due to extensive flooding caused by recent heavy rains in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).
South Africa was hit last weekend by rainy and cold conditions, particularly affecting the Free State, the North West, Gauteng, the KZN, the Northern and Eastern Cape and the Highveld region of Mpumalanga.
The cold spell not only resulted in continued power outages, but also led to substantial localized flooding, as seen in parts of the KZN.
CEO of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and IndustryPalesa Phili, said the catastrophic floods in various parts of eThekwini (the Durban metro) had an impact on road networks, infrastructure and major highways such as the M4 and N2.
“These road networks represent a crucial business infrastructure, providing a link between businesses and industries at eThekwini,” he said.
“Any loss in any part of this economic infrastructure for an unspecified period will have a devastating impact on manufacturing, travel and tourism, agriculture and many more. [sectors]inevitably causing huge losses through business operations and expenses.
Phili notes that many companies are still recovering from the impact of the July riots and Covid-19, and therefore no further losses can be borne.
“Any amount of rain in eThekwini could lead to further flooding, as the ground is completely saturated. The magnitude and frequency of these storms are proving to be a huge risk to the growth and development of the local economy, especially in an already limited economic environment, with a major challenge represented by the inability to transport and supply goods and services to various destinations due to floods and traffic congestion, “he added.
Transnet reported that heavy rains have damaged the road infrastructure leading to the port of Durban, affecting access to the terminals.
“Shipments have been suspended until further notice due to environmental damage caused by bad weather and the ships at berth are waiting,” a statement read.
The railway company also notes that terminal operations have been compromised due to the difficulties encountered in handling wet cargo at Richards Bay. Railway lines in some parts of the province also operate at limited capacity.
Banks, mobile networks affected
Standard Bank reported that 34 of its branches and support facilities in KZN have been closed, with those in the city of Durban and those along the south coast and north coast being the hardest hit.
The banking group urges customers to use its digital channels in the meantime to conduct transactions.
Leading mobile network operator MTN says its services have also been shut down, with 500 sites in the region down.
“The flooding in the KZN region caused power outages at many of our sites, and although we have spare batteries at many sites, these batteries have run out,” said Jacqui O’Sullivan, MTN SA executive for corporate business.
“Our main challenge right now is to gain access to sites with many damaged or flooded roads, preventing us from replenishing batteries or restoring power to the site.”
The network provider says the main areas affected at this stage include Durban South, South Coast, Umlazi, Malagazi, Amanzimtoti, Ballito and Salt Rock.
Vodacom was also hit.
According to the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the exact economic cost of the flood has yet to be determined.
However, he can deduce from his observations that critical infrastructure and various properties have been severely damaged.
“Small businesses may not have adequate insurance to recover their losses, thus jeopardizing their existence and sustainability in the future. If these losses are not recouped, over time the local economy can [expect to] suffer significantly, ”Phili added.
“South Durban continues to be hit by heavy rains. This region is home to the largest producers in South Africa.
“If the issue is not resolved, it will have a negative effect on the country’s overall GDP.”
President visiting the province
President Cyril Ramaphosa will visit the province on Wednesday (April 13) to “offer support to affected communities and assess the response of the government and civil society to this critical situation”.
The presidency said in a statement Tuesday evening that Ramaphosa will visit areas that have been “severely affected by persistent heavy downpours that have claimed casualties, infrastructure and various assets.”
KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala, Metro Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda and other officials will brief Ramaphosa on the extent of the damage and the response from government agencies.
Ramaphosa will be accompanied by the Minister of the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, the Minister of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and the Minister of Police Bheki Cele.
* It was reported by eNCA on Tuesday night that Dlamini Zuma confirmed that the province “will be declared a disaster area”.
Palesa Mofokeng is a Moneyweb intern.