Disaster Management Amendment Bill: briefing by stakeholders

This premium content has been made freely available

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

21 April 2015
Chairperson: Mr M Mdakane (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

Various Stakeholders presented their ideas and comments on the Disaster Amendment Bill [B10-2015]

There were several issues raised in these presentations that were recurrent in many presentations and almost the whole Committee and the stakeholders agreed with the move from the phrase ‘disaster management’ to ‘disaster risk reduction and the management thereof’.

The Disaster Management Training and Education Centre, University of the Free State (DMTEC-UFS) presentation pointed out that the definition of ‘adaption’ in the Bill was only linked to climate change, which should read adaption to global change as this wording included a wider range of factors. The National Disaster Management Committee (NDMC) should be centralized under the office of the President, Premier, Municipal Manager and more centrally at local levels. The financing of disaster risk management should also be addressed. The response to disasters could be quicker and more effective if the process was streamlined.

The Research Alliance for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction (RADAR) presentation emphasised that the law should align with the global direction towards risk reduction.  Various key definitions should be clarified and included. Climate variability should be included alongside climate change and spatial/temporal information should not be restricted to areas by section 24 (4).

The presentation from the Southern Africa Society for Disaster Reduction emphasized that this was the perfect opportunity to be leaders in policy for disaster reduction and management. Since 2002 the political commitment had not permeated through to local levels. The new Sendai framework on disaster management should be incorporated in to the Bill. The definition of disaster risks should be based that of the Office for Disaster Risk Reduction of the United Nations (UNISDR) which was broader and could put responsibilities on various role players.

The NDMC reiterated many of the calls for amendments to definitions. The disaster risk reduction platforms on a national level and should be replicated on a provincial and municipal level, as had already been seen in the City of Cape Town. There was a concern that risk reduction might be watered down from the advisory forums at national level. It was suggested that disaster reduction management plans be submitted on a municipal and provincial level.

In the DMISA presentation raised important issues on disaster practitioners and their responsibilities in reducing risk. There should be more said on funding in terms of section 52 of the Act. On the issue of ‘hazards’ in legislation needs to be more specific and give specific responsibilities on the role players to manage their own hazards that they were affected by.

Much of the discussion focused on the proposed centralization of the NDMC. Members asked why this specialized function should be centralized under the Office of the President when it could be placed in the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs which crossed into all the spheres of governance. The stakeholders present felt strongly that it would have more weight if placed in the Office of the President.

There was also much discussion on the proposed move from the phrase ‘climate change’ to ‘global change’, and on the difference between the terminology of disaster risk reduction, disaster management and disaster risk management.

Members asked why volunteers should be paid and provided with insurance, and whether private companies were by implication included in the Act. 

Meeting report

Presentation from the Disaster Management Training and Education Centre, University of the Free State

Dr Andries Jordaan, Director: Disaster Management Training and Education Centre, University of the Free State, gave a briefing on the Disaster Management Amendment Bill. He began by referring to section 1(a) the definition of ‘adaption’. The definition of adaptation should refer to ‘global change’ instead of ‘climate change’ so as to include things such as population growth, migration patterns, climate change,  economic and market changes, as these were all relevant aspects. The definition of global change should be in the definitions as well. Section 1(b) should also replace climate change with global change.

Section 2 of the Bill explained that the National Disaster Management Advisory Forum was the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction. He suggested that it be for the whole of disaster management. This would bring out the inconsistent use of disaster risk reduction (DRR) instead of the holistic disaster management as Defined in the Act and should at the very least read ‘DRR and disaster response’.  The issue of financing of disaster risk reduction was not explicitly addressed in the Bill since most often Disaster Managers did not have a great say and control over the development and implementation of the Integrated Development Plans (IDP) wherein disaster risk reduction was to be incorporated.

The Bill did not make mention of the line of control for accountability between the national, provincial, metropolitan and district levels.

The Bill could have clarified the use of symbols and sirens by disaster management during disaster responses in order to avoid conflict and confusion with other emergency services like ambulances and the South African Police Service (SAPS). For example the use of green lights as opposed to blue lights for SAPS.

The Bill should also include preapproved contingency plans for cases of disasters such as drought. This would alleviate the problem of help not being provided quickly enough because of time-consuming approval procedures.

The issue concerning volunteers was not clarified in the Bill. This related to remuneration for volunteers, if any, and insurance concerns relating to volunteers. 

The National Disaster Management Committee (NDMC) should also be centralized under the office of the President, Premier, Municipal Manager and more centrally at local levels. This current lack of coordination affected the quality of implementation as other departments did not listen to the NDMC and therefore this centralization would help. The centralization of this function in other countries had been a success and was long overdue in South Africa.

Dr Jordaan concluded by saying that disaster management and disaster risk management needed to be taken more seriously if the new Bill was to have any lasting effects.  

Mr K Mileham (DA) referred to the issue raised on sirens and symbols. It was something that should be dealt with by regulations and not by the Bill. Why would this specialized function be centralized under the Office of the President? There was the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs which crossed into all the spheres of governance and was the right place for it.  A concern was brought up directed at the Department about the ability of smaller municipalities to appoint a person of quality to do this properly as they did not have the capacity.

Mr E Mthethwa (ANC) said that he did not see the logic in the volunteers needing insurance and asked what measures would be taken to ensure that this was in place. He questioned the value, the payments and the model of the proposed insurance. He requested further elaboration on the volunteers on issues such as compensation, insurance policies and experience.

Dr Jordaan responded to the question on centralization by saying that if the function was centralized then they will have access to all the departments and planning could start right at the beginning whether it was for example the water repairs, agriculture or transport. Risk analysis could also be done at national, provincial and local levels which would all feed into the development plans. It would also be so much easier to enforce risk assessments and risk reduction into all development plans. At Municipal and District level, managers could then elevate the importance of disaster risk reduction and disaster risk assessment as it would have so much more attention.  

Dr Jordaan said that in developing countries volunteers were not the same as those in developed countries as they expected to be paid at least a stipend as they were usually not employed and over a long period of time there might be conflict with labour laws.

Regarding the insurance, volunteers who volunteered their services and assets should at least have some form of life insurance and/or insurance of their assets whilst they were executing their services.

Mr M Hlengwa (IFP) asked for further explanation on the suggestion to change in the definition the phrase ‘climate change’ to ‘global change’.

Dr Jordan said that it should be global change this phrase included changes such as migration, movement of people, and population growth. These factors could impact disaster management, as had recently been seen with the xenophobic violence.

The Chairperson did not see the need to consider the migration of people as disaster management was the issue at hand. Volunteers should not receive stipends as they would no longer be volunteers and this would put undue strain on resources as a result. Free volunteering should be encouraged.

Mr C Matsepe (DA) asked whether mining companies could also be considered as role players with SAPS and the South African National Defense Force (SANDF).

Dr Jordaan responded that all the private companies were by implication included in the Act. Referring to mining companies would therefore be redundant as private businesses were included. SAPS and SANDF had interpreted the Act wrongly as they were not explicitly mentioned in the Act. However, security forces and the SANDF were now directly cited in the Bill. After the amendments, the NDMC would be able to request the support of SANDF and SAPS.

Mr Mark Pluke, Area Head, Disaster Risk Management Centre, City of Cape Town, was glad the subject of centralization was mentioned as it was a critical issue on a municipal level and was in the framework for disaster management where it was strongly advised in point 2.1, page 16, 17 and 18. The Municipalities faced huge frustration and constraints in achieving disaster reduction as a result of its current placement. If it were to be placed in the City Manager’s Office there would be more cooperation from various role players. He agreed with the suggestion that the function should be placed centrally.

The Chairperson said that at local level things generally were more easily administrable and mentioned that Dr Jordaan has international experience in disaster management therefore his recommendation should be considered. Further elaboration on the placement issue by Dr Jordaan was requested.

Dr Jordaan said that the function should be placed in the Office of the City Manager.

Mr M Mapulane (ANC) asked how placing the function within the Office of the President would help achieve the objects of the Bill.

Dr Jordaan responded that he was looking at it from a practical point of view and not from a legal one. The way that the placement was now was on a middle ground where generally everyone’s interests were covered. However, it should still be centralized so it could be coordinated better and could have a greater impact.

The Chairperson asked Dr Jordaan what his knowledge was regarding other international countries and their placement.

Dr Jordaan responded that he had been part of a team investigating the systems of other African countries over the past two years and it was gathered that of the seven countries investigated that had placement centrally only one was not successful.  These countries did a lot in two years as a result even though they were still young because the placement was under the Presidency. Pressure could be put on the guys to do their jobs properly.

Presentation by the Research Alliance Disaster and Risk Reduction (RADAR)

Dr Ailsa Holloway, Director: Research Alliance for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction, Stellenbosch University, began her presentation by raising four concerns. The law should align with global best practices with regard to explicit functions of disaster risk management and disaster risk reduction. Disaster management with prevailing terminology was outdated by almost a decade. There were a number of key definitions that needed to be reviewed. Climate variability should also be included with climate change. Spatial and temporal information on hazard under section 24(4) should be added and it should not be restricted only to the areas affected. Management of risk would never be successful if it could not be shown to what special extent the hazards were occurring.

The first issue was the realignment with global emphasis on risk reduction/ management. Reference was made to the Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction which mapped out guidelines for the next 15 years. The framework held that there should be a focus on preventing new and reducing existing disaster risks. The global trend was that risks should be reduced so that disasters did not have to be dealt with all the time because they were very expensive monetarily, in human capital and in energy at all levels.

In the framework disaster management was never mentioned but disaster risk management was mentioned 26 times. It had taken 14 years since the first discussions on the Disaster Management Bill and it had gone full circle. Therefore practices should be aligned with the pursuant global direction and contemporarily looking towards the future.

Since 2002 various countries had promulgated Acts in this regard such as Columbia, the Philippines and Peru where these Acts had been based around Disaster Reduction Management. The Committee had to seriously consider global best practices as disaster management had been put in the back room five to ten years ago as disaster risk reduction and management had come to the forefront. Risk must not only be managed by the Disaster Risk Management Centers but was everyone’s responsibility.

The definitions in the Amendment needed to include ‘hazard’, ‘exposure’ ‘disaster risk’ and ‘disaster risk management’ as there was no way that disaster risks could be categorized without the use of these terms. The definition of mitigation in the Amendment Bill contained the words ‘hazard and exposure’, yet these words were not defined in the Bill. The definitions in the Bill needed to be reviewed and strengthened.

If definitions around ecosystems were to be included then climate variability definitely needed to be included. Variability refered to changes and movement of climate from very wet to very dry conditions. There needed to be a discussion on global change, climate change and climate variability. A word to navigate migration would be ‘mobility’ as people move around and ‘mobility’ was an adaptive strategy.

In supporting the suggestion on variability, reference was made to twelve weather events that occurred since 2002 till January 2014 in the Western Cape and had amounted to R97.4 million in direct municipal damage costs and a total direct damage cost of R586.4 million. The majority of the damage had affected agriculture, road and infrastructure recurrently, which showed that climate variability was a major factor that was not being managed well.

Reference was made to section 24(4) of the Amendment which should include spatial and temporal information on hazards as currently organs of state only needed to provide information on the areas and communities affected and there was no requirement to mention the magnitude, extent or spatial attributes.

Research also showed that losses did not always align tightly with exposure, an example of this being the recorded rainfall for severe weather events in the Western Cape from 2011 till 2014. Rainfall was also severe in the Eastern Cape but the losses were not documented.

The data did not show that severe weather events that sweep through the Western Cape behaved differently depending on whether they came through during the winter or summer months. The implications of this were that the severe weather systems that came through between November and February got additional energy from the sun and hot air from the summer rainfall areas from equatorial Africa which meant that the rainfall came down very fast and intense and flash flood status was reached quickly.

In one of the detailed studies of the rainfall in the Lourensford catchment and the remodeling of the weather event showed that it took one and a half hours for the floodways to reach the hospital which then needed to be evacuated. The emergency preparedness response services needed to be mobilized extremely quickly but could not do so as a result of this.

This would not have been possible to piece together unless the exposure of the event was recorded and it was now possible to give direct guidance to Provincial disaster management centers in managing severe weather events now and in the future.

There was another reason for recording exposure and that was previous risk exposure improves current and future risk management. For instance, the Lourensford catchment received nearly 200ml of rain in three hours however the flood exposure due to fire-related run-off was not factored in as the run-off increased drastically if areas were burned at high temperatures. If we did not require the exposure to be recorded then many learning opportunities regarding risk would be sorely missed.

Dr Holloway agreed with Dr Jordaan’s statement that we have an opportunity to think innovatively and needed legislation that was forward-thinking and that would continue to lead and inspire other African countries.

An emerging area to think about was that the analysis of social media interaction. An analysis was done on the tens of thousands of twitter feeds regarding the evacuation of a flooded hospital in the Free State and thousands of people responded to a simple tweet that saying ‘hospital being evacuated’ which then caused these unskilled volunteers to get in the way of the evacuation at the hospital. These emerging dynamics would need to be considered for the future.

Mr M Mapulane (ANC) asked what the difference was between disaster risk reduction, disaster management and disaster risk management.

Dr Holloway was glad she had her colleagues beside her to assist her in explaining the differences as these terms had different meanings in different conditions. She suggested that the Committee attend a short workshop which would explain all the technical terms which were contained in this field as the issue on the differences between these three terms had been posed a decade ago and was still a stumbling block.  She was not a disaster manager and suggested Dr Jordaan gave input on this issue.

Her view was that it depended on how broadly or narrowly it was defined as disaster management typically responded to the capacities around being able to prepare, anticipate, respond, mobilize and recover from small, medium and large scale disasters. It must also be able to mitigate it.  Disaster risk management was more practical and did not put disaster in the core and was about managing disaster risks fundamentally so that risks did not accumulate or escalate into a disaster. There was however an element of preparedness and responding but everyone and all affected departments should be managing their own risks not just the Disaster Manager. Disaster risk reduction was an aspiration as the pursuance of this goal was the objective. It did not necessarily have all the nuts and bolts like the other concepts but contained practical actions in achieving risk reductions.

Mr Mileham responded by clarifying the differences in his own words. Disaster management was response oriented primarily, disaster risk management and risk reduction surrounded the future and what could be done to lessen the effects of a disaster or a disaster occurring and involves everyone.

Prof Dewald van Niekerk, Director: African Centre for Disaster Studies, North West University, gave clarity on the difference between the three terms by looking at it in another way. Disaster risk management and disaster risk reduction could be looked at in two ways, either as an activity which not only cuts down on every sphere of government but also across every line function as well, and was also a function of government. As it was a function, structures such as the disaster management centers had been created with the idea that these centers would manage disaster risks and reduction but this was flawed as it had been correctly mentioned earlier that the disaster risk management was everyone’s responsibility which included all the line functions, organs of state right down to the communities. In academia the term ‘disaster management’ had been phased out and there was a shift towards ‘disaster risk management’ as disasters were not the main concern but rather the management of the risks that caused such a disaster and future disasters.

Ms Elmien Steyn, Disaster Risk Management Centre, City of Cape Town, said that she would give an overview of disaster risk management in a more practical way as she represented the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management Centre. Disaster risk management was security orientated and therefore there was a need for line functions to share the responsibility for the reduction of risk. The Centre also served as an advisory board on provincial and national levels. With regard to the risk reduction and planning side of things the Centre also created the Joint Disaster Risk Reduction Management Committee (JDRRMC) where various departments were required to compile disaster risk reduction plans for their specific fields and assistance was given in doing so. This was done to get all the line functions to make an effort to manage the reduction of their own risks. There were currently 23 of these disaster reduction contingency plans in place. In the planning, spatial and temporal attributes were included but should be more inclusive.

The Chairperson admitted that disaster management, risk management and reduction of risks seem very complex and welcomed further debate on the topic.

Ms Ané BruwerExecutive Manager: Legislation, Policy and Compliance, NDMC and representing COGTA, gave her own description on these concepts. She referred to the definition of disaster management in the Act which referred to the preparedness, response and also the reduction of risks. The Constitution also stated that disaster management was one of the functions of government and thus was inclusive and gives a footing for disaster risk management. This was one of the many complexities that were faced.

Mr Mileham said he found the statement a bit disingenuous for two reasons. Firstly, yes the Constitution spoke about disaster management so there was nothing stopping them from talking about disaster management and risk reduction as that would be more comprehensive and inclusive terminology. Secondly, it did not talk about cross cutting into the line functions of government but rather about preparedness, response and recovery. Disaster risk management and reduction was a recurring theme throughout the presentations and this was a perfect opportunity to draft legislation that was in alignment with global best practices and thinking into the future. The Act was 14 years old already and needed to adapt so therefore the definition of disaster risk management and reduction should be included into the definition as it was currently was not broad enough.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was not there to appeal the Bill but rather amend it and it asked for further debate on the other definitions such as climate and global change.

Ms Bruwer said the NDMC had consulted with the Department of Environmental Affairs with regard to the issue of climate change and they were of the view that the term global change should be used. The Department of Environmental Affairs was excited and glad that the issue of climate adaption was being addressed and that there must be a climate change adaptation plan.

Dr Jordaan said that on the issue of climate and global change there was no entity in the world that could give a model for how the climate would change in Cape Town, for example. All the models talked about global climate change so we did not know what we would have to adapt to. Therefore we should focus on global change as it includes climate change and all the other factors such as population growth and migration.

Dr Johan Minnie, President: Disaster Management Institute of Southern Africa, said that practitioners in this field had been running theoretical circles around each other for the past decade on the differences of disaster management and risk reduction management. One thing that was in agreement was that the amendments needed to create an environment where everyone could contribute to disaster risk reduction. The word management generally was an all-inclusive term as when one manages correctly then one has to look at all aspects of the subject and not only after the disaster happened but also before.

Ms Steyn said that this was a perfect opportunity to discuss and amend the contentious issues in the Act. She was of the opinion that disaster risk reduction and management should be included in the definition so that the NDMC could control and implement disaster risk reduction and management better at a ground level.

Presentation by the Southern Africa Society for Disaster Reduction

Prof van Niekerk said that in 2002 and 2005 South Africa took the lead in Disaster management with its forward-looking policies and it was marvelous that the current Act was already at least 85 percent on the right track and that it was being further improved. The Sendai framework was new and gave the unique opportunity to incorporate it into South African policies and amendments. In the presentation reference was made to the areas needing amending and the points that have been successful in the past, keeping in mind the reality that the whole Act could not be changed. This commitment from national level had not permeated through to provincial and local levels as a result of lack of capacities, skills, knowledge and not taking disaster risk reduction seriously.

On the issue of placement of the National Disaster Management Centre, Prof van Niekerk agreed with Dr Jordaan that it should be placed more centrally and this statement was supported by the fact that in other African countries where this had been successful it was 85 to 90 percent of the time placed within the highest political authority. This was necessary as there needed to be some cross-cutting into line functions as it needed to be taken more seriously. People in South Africa lived with risk every day and this could not be captured once off in the management terminology such as things that were more developmental, poverty- and vulnerability-related.

The second aspect of the Amendment Bill which he highlighted was the focus on local municipal level. One of the main issues was the implementation of the disaster risk management and this should work up from a community and local level up to a national level and not the other way around. We will not be able to have effect on disaster risks if we did not take cognizance of the level where the disaster risks occur. The devolution of power remained critical even when deciding the placement of the NDMC.

In an extensive research project for the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) it was shown that more than half of the local municipalities that have responded indicated that they were never or rarely consulted by their district disaster risk management structures. A lot of these local municipalities felt disempowered to implement their own structures because of the link with the districts and the wording in the Act which mentions ‘may’. It should be changed to ‘must’, as it was currently confusing and open to interpretation. Almost all the municipalities consulted would appreciate the change to ‘must’. If people were given leeway then they will interpret it so that they were not obliged to do it. These changes should be done to sections 37(1), 43(2) (b), 52(1), 54(2) and 58(1) and these changes were important for the practicality on municipal level.

Prof van Niekerk then touched on the interpretation of the Act such as the entities saying that it was an unfunded mandate and thus not doing its job from a Constitutional standpoint. The lack of funding was not the issue but rather the lack of capacity and knowledge with the funding. With regard to the naming of the Act, the name Disaster Management Act was correct previously but it was not applicable in this new era and links to an outdated term such as ‘disaster management’ should not be made but rather be changed to disaster risk management to get on board with global best practices.

Another reason for this was that at tertiary level the new generation did not know the old terms but rather modern terms such as disaster risk management, this showed the need to focus on risk issues as well. People in fields such as hydrologists and meteorologists refered to disaster risk management when working in the respective fields as they did understand what risks were and how they come about. Once and for all the terminology should be changed to adapt to current international standards.
A point highlighted in the Amendment Bill were the roles and responsibilities of the Organs of State. The Bill spoke of the multi-sectorial and multi-layer disaster risk management in the definition and it was very commendable to see these things coming through. What Prof van Niekerk hoped to see in future was the mention of the responsibility of conducting disaster risk management in the job descriptions of the disaster risk managers as was seen in departments such as the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as well as the Department of Health. It would then serve as a performance measure indicator and this was in alignment with the National Disaster Management Policy Framework.

Another point of emphasis was the roles and responsibilities of the entities in the private sector. When a disaster occurs the private sector companies lost the most but they were not on board. The only mention of them was that they should form part of the advisory board and at all levels their attendance on the advisory boards had been poor at best so it was suggested that ways were found to engage the private sector better.

He agreed with the adaption of the climate change and said that climate change, climate variability, development and disaster reduction worked closer to each other and suggested that the best way to did this was for the NDMC to consult the Department of Environmental Affairs on a daily basis.

The Sendai Framework was a sterling example of how gender and disability disparities could be incorporated into policy. This needed to be considered as this was an important issue in the context of South Africa and it was disappointing that there was no specific reference to gender, disability and cultural aspects. Currently, only use the general term ‘vulnerable communities’ was used and this lost its essence as words should be used that empower women, youth leadership, culture and so on.

Some specific comments on the Amendment Bill were also made with reference to the definition of disaster risk reduction which had been watered down from the original proclaimed by the Office for Disaster Risk Reduction of the United Nations (UNISDR). Particularly in the mention of environmental factors. For instance the reference made to ecosystems would be more appropriate if it referred to socio-ecological link systems. The definition of resilience should also be included.

Lastly, the aligning of early warning systems to global best practices where there needed to be a stronger link to science and research such as what the private sectors and non- governmental organizations were doing.

Mr Mileham asked whether Prof van Niekerk felt that the roles and responsibilities of the organs of state such as the SANDF and SAPS were adequately defined, such as who brings it in, who terminates it and the funding thereof.

Prof van Niekerk responded that at national level generally everyone knew their roles and responsibilities and at lower levels if their responsibilities were better defined then the NDMC could investigate whether these responsibilities were being fulfilled in their line function.

Mr Hlengwa asked for clarity on the issue of vulnerability, gender and disability.
Prof van Niekerk responded that the essence of the most at risk people was lost and at municipal and district level there was not aggregated data on specific groups and categories of people because the vulnerable communities were seen as a whole. However, there were specific vulnerable groups within this all-encompassing term and it was important to determine what the exposure was on those groups. Legislation needed to capture this and an example of this broad grouping was that some groups might on the face of it be poor but not vulnerable or vulnerable but very resilient.

Dr Jordaan said it was positive that the Amendment Bill highlighted risk assessment which would assist in determining the most at risk groups and their exposure.

Mr Mileham asked for more clarity on the roles and responsibilities on the private sector and asked for more suggestions on how it could be better defined.
Prof van Niekerk responded that there were various regulations in place governing the private sector but legislation should be made to make private companies more accountable to what they did to limit disaster risks. An example was the situation near the North West University where high-rise buildings had been built for student housing without consideration to the infrastructure and now various problems were arising as a result.

The private sector could also bring in valuable resources such as skills and money that could be spent on disaster reduction. It needed to be determined where the right place was to put the private sector’s involvement but the legislation as it was would not be able to do this as there were too many variables. It was important to create an awareness of the Disaster Risk Unit to engage the private sector and create an engagement on a national level. The private sector would not come to advisory forums but they would definitely listen if it was placed under the Presidency.

Ms Steyn made an example from the standpoint of the City of Cape Town’s NDMC that all major developments came through the NDMC and the various departments such as the Department of Environmental Affairs had a chance to comment on the planning thereof in addition to spatial attributes.

Comments by the National Disaster Management Committee, City of Cape Town

Ms Steyn touched on certain issues that were raised in the preceding presentations. She agreed that the name of the Bill should also be changed to Disaster Risk Management Bill. She also agreed with the proposal that the NDMC be placed under the Presidency, Premier and City Management Offices.

The term ‘hazard’ needed to be defined in the Bill and if it could not be put into the legislation then there needed to be a detailed explanation describing the hazards and the various hazards it comprised of would be useful for the NDMC on a municipal level.

With regard to ‘emergency preparedness’ in the definition it should rather be changed to ‘disaster preparedness’ as the term emergency preparedness may be interpreted incorrectly and there was a need for an explanation on that.

There should be some changes to the purpose of the Act and disaster rehabilitation, relief and reconstruction should be included in the Amendment. As a municipality this was very important as ‘recovery’ was comprised of all these three elements. It was also proposed that the definition of ‘community’ be clarified and changed as if affected how disaster risks were managed in suburbs and informal settlements. The definition of departments needed to be considered as it linked to where the NDMC was placed. 

The definition of ‘disaster’ should also be changed to incorporate locally available resources. It would also help if there were clear definitions of ‘preparedness’ and ‘hazard’ and it was proposed that these definitions be in line with the thinking of the United Nations (UN). The definition of disaster risk assessment should be amended to include the measurement of the community’s preparedness and ability to cope with risk hazards. The Bill should also include definitions of coping capacity and manageability.

The Amendment Bill made mention of disaster risk reduction platforms on a national level and these should be linked to disaster risk reduction platforms on a provincial and municipal level as well. The City of Cape Town had taken their own initiative on this as they have created the Joint Disaster Risk Reduction Management Committee (JDRRMC). There should be a separate forum where risk reduction was discussed but it would be ideal if platforms for these were included on a provincial and municipal level.

There was a concern that risk reduction might be watered down from the advisory forums at national level. There should also be specific definitions relation to administrative units in order to eliminate confusion. After the assessment had been concluded then drafting should take place that integrated this information into the risk reduction management plans. It was suggested that disaster reduction management plans be submitted on a municipal and provincial level. A meeting would be set up with South African Local Government Association (SALGA) to discuss some of these comments in more detail as this opportunity could not be missed.


The Chairperson said that this proposed meeting should be conducted as soon as possible so that their amendments could be considered in time.

Dr Jordaan said that the conundrum around disaster management could not be fulfilled by only one entity as it included risk reduction, development planning and considered the view points of the economists, scientist and environmentalist. On the other hand they were also expected to fulfill their ‘adrenaline’ duties such as the responding to the disaster, mobilizing and serving victims in disaster camps.  This showed that it was a lot of responsibility for one entity.

Up to 85 percent of the current Act was acceptable. However, the small changes recommended would only go a small way in making things on the ground better. The question should rather be whether Disaster Risk Reduction could be accommodated. He agreed with all of the proposals made thus far and emphasized the fact that the focus should be on risk reduction and even suggested that the name be changed to alter the mindset of people in order to achieve the objective of risk reduction.

Additionally, rules and regulations should not be drafted or amended that would make the duties and jobs of the practitioners more difficult but rather to clarify and simplify, which will then make it more implementable and effective. Processes needed to be streamlined and this could only be done if various spheres and levels of government such as national and provincial started trusting each other.  It would be a major step in the right direction if this could be done.

Prof van Niekerk said there was a unique opportunity to put South Africa in the lead when it came to policy and legislation in this regard not only in Africa but globally as well. The amended Disaster Management Bill needed to ensure that disaster risk reduction could occur from the ground level up to the national level. There was too much research and facts out there that supported that disaster risk reduction was more affective from municipal and district level.  

Prof van Niekerk was drafting the disaster risk reduction legislation for Uganda and in a lighthearted tone said that he would really not like to draft better legislation for them than for South Africa.

Mr Pluke then reiterated that it will have more impact if it was more centrally placed as previously recommended. He then made an example of a meeting where stakeholders were called to give input but the turnout was extremely poor and as a result of its current placement the abilities of the City Manager. There was no mention in the Act of the placement within organizational structures but in the framework it was ‘strongly advised’ that it be placed centrally under the Office of the Presidency, Premier and City Municipal Managers. 

Ms Bruwer responded that the main issues were the terminologies, the placement of the function and matters of implementation. In fulfilling their duties there was a need for inter-governmental cooperation in terms of their respective mandates. Most of the comments made today were not new and came up in the various consultation workshops that were held.

With regard to the definitions it was usually a much contested issue as the views on it came from different angles. In approaching this issue, the principle point was looking at the terminology used by the UN and leading practitioners in the field and then aligning it to South African legislation.

The terminology used in our own country should also be considered such as the various regulations, the Constitution and the current Disaster Management Act.  Disaster management was a South African term and encompassed disaster risk management and reduction. It was practical to reach an agreement on this definition so that all stakeholders involved could reach a consensus on it.

On the issue on placement of the function and from a NDMC point of view it would be best to place it on a level where it could be better coordinated, such as the Office of the President, Premier and City Manager. This would ensure that at the highest level down to the lowest disaster risk reduction will be taken into account more seriously and in turn everyone would be managing their own risks. Most of the stakeholders at this Committee meeting would agree that not everything could be placed in the principle act but could rather be placed in regulations to deal with the smaller issues.

Presentation by the Disaster Management Institute of South Africa (DMISA)

Dr Minnie commenced the presentation by explaining that the Disaster Management Institute of South Africa (DMISA)’s main concern was disaster management practitioners and how everyone could assist in disaster risk reduction. He supported the move from disaster management to disaster risk reduction and management thereof. With regard to the previous Act not mentioning entities such as the SANDF specifically there was a risk that other Organs of State might abstain from fulfilling their roles and responsibilities themselves if it was not addressed. The Amendment as it was stood did make specific mention to the SANDF and their assistance could be called upon.  

Even though it was a major ask to get managers at a municipal level to carry the burden of reducing risk there still needed to be a ‘champion’ that spearheaded the reduction of risk. It must not however be forgotten that everyone needed to reduces their own share of the risk. There should be more said on funding. Section 52 of the Act should include ‘funding provided’ and the various departments should fund their own disaster risk reduction measures. Building infrastructure would increase capacity to reduce risk and must be noted. On the issue of ‘hazards’ in legislation, there was a need to be more specific and give specific responsibilities on the role players to manage the hazards that they were affected by.

Dr Minnie spoke positively of the Committee’s review of the legislation and how far they had come.  

Mr B Bhanga (DA) asked how coordination could be dealt with at a local level. He suggested that a legal expert be consulted to give clarity on the issue and whether it would require a Constitutional amendment.

Dr Minnie responded that the way in which the City Manager interacted with the NDMC affected the effectiveness of disaster management and reduction. If the function was placed more centrally like in the City Manager’s Office there would be a better line of authority and coordination could occur more smoothly. He supported the recommended placement as it would come from a place with more authority and would therefore assist the municipalities in its functions of disaster risk reduction

Mr Mileham agreed and suggested that certain specific entities and departments on national, provincial and local levels should be allocated responsibilities. This could be done by incorporating these specific allocations into a schedule. He asked the Committee whether this was something they could consider. This did not require a Constitutional amendment.

The UNISDR definition was better than the current one in the Amendment Bill as it provided that disaster risk reduction ‘means the concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyse and manage the causal factors of disaster, including through reduced exposure to hazards, lessened vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, and improved preparedness for adverse events’. The allotment of this definition brought the various responsibilities that had to be fulfilled by disaster management and risk reduction entities. These responsibilities could then be placed on the various role players and departments. This definition and its mention of managing the causal effects of disaster should be incorporated.

Dr Minnie said that categorizing all the hazards would be of best interest. A few of the hazards were hydrological, meteorically, biological, environmental and geological. These hazards could then be clustered and from that the responsibilities could be put on the various role players and departments.

When the Disaster Management Act was promulgated in 2002 the framework in 2005 was clear that we should look beyond response and focus on risk reduction. As a result of this, response had been somewhat neglected since. The response capacity had been reduced over the years and it was therefore important that legislation made sure that risk was reduced but should still maintain efforts to keep the response aspect strong.

Ms Bruwer said that section 2 of the Principle Act provided that the Minister may consult with Cabinet Members to issue various responsibilities on the departments. The Committee should consider this. With regard to the definition of disaster risk reduction in the Amendment Bill there would be no harm in considering a wider definition such as the UNISDR’s. Some of the presentations wanted things defined that were not in the Act and this could not be done if there was no specific clause relating to those terms and concepts.

Mr Jurgens Dyssel, Senior Manager, Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and National Disaster Management Centre, added that disaster management issues were very complex. The Act was not being amended for the practitioners working in the field but also as a social contract with the people of South Africa. The wealth of traditional knowledge should also be consulted with regard to disaster management systems and how to incorporate this knowledge in the amendments. The key was that the legislation must be enacted in such a way that people could understand it, therefore the meanings of definitions could not be discounted. There was a need for clarity on disaster risk reduction so that there were not ongoing debates as to what these key terms meant during implementation. He supported looking at international global best practices that were fundamental to South Africa’s legal structure.

Ms Vuyokazi Ndah, Executive Manager, Legal Division, COGTA said that from a legislative drafting point of view it was desirable to leave the Act as broad as possible and to use more general terms as when one drafts legislation to narrowly there is a risk of not covering certain unforeseen aspects. It would take years for that legislation to be amended again. If everything could not fit in the legislation then it should be put in regulations or other supporting documents.

Mr Bhanga said that it was very dangerous for legislators to put things into regulation instead of legislation. The Department should come and explain the need for the move from risk management towards risk reduction management. The legislation must not only be of an intervening nature but should also consider the people.

Comments on Committee administration

Mr Bhanga said that he did not receive timeous details of the meetings of the Cooperative governance and traditional affairs and raised this technical issue. This problem lay with the administration and a future discussion was needed on this.

Mr Mileham responded that this Department’s Committee meetings did not appear on the schedule and if they did appear then the details of the Committee meetings were incorrect and suggested that the timing and location of the Committee meetings be scheduled well in advance. 

The Chairperson considered the point made on administration and said that Members of Parliament ought not to be affected by these niggling problems. Management would look into it.

Mr Mapulane said that these administrative issues raised were unfounded as the scheduled program for meetings took the Committee up to January 2016.

Mr Mileham responded that that program had not been adopted by the Committee and that the program did not give times or venues.

The Chairperson said that the program would be adopted the next day but that the administration should be on top of the matter. It was a concern as Members needed to be informed of the agenda so that they could prepare themselves better for meetings. He asked the stakeholders to give more input on issues they would like to highlight or emphasize.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.

Share this page: