Disaster Management: briefing

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

22 February 2000
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

22 February 2000


Documents handed out:
Draft Disaster Management Bill, 2000
Disaster Management Issues to be Addressed (attached to the end of minutes)



The committee was briefed on the Department's work regarding Disaster Management. They went over the White Paper on Disaster Management and the draft Disaster Management Bill which should be approved and tabled by April 2000.

Overview: Disaster Management
Mr Zam Titus, Director General, stated that the Department of Provincial & Local Government was not the only role player as regards Disaster Management . He listed the other role players such as the SANDF, the Public Emergency Services, the National Disaster Relief Fund, Cabinet, the Joint Operations Board (first to be consulted when there is a disaster followed by local governments and then the provinces) and the Departments of Health, Agriculture, Public Works, Water Affairs, Welfare and Trade & Industry.
The Department also worked in partnership with the private sector, civil society and NGOs although the latter partnership had not been fully explored.
Parliament also had a role play in evaluating the strategies they devise.

When the present government came into power in 1994 there was no co-ordination at national level regarding disaster management. It was only towards the end of 1995 that tentative steps were taken. The government's disaster management plans need assessment so that focus is placed on reality rather than on theory.

His department had to devise a strategy to co-ordinate planning and provide leadership when it came to operations in the event of a natural disasters such as those caused by rain, fire and excessive winds.

There were problems at the moment relating to funding as the Disaster Management Centre was incapacitated without proper funding. Also cited were problems regarding mobilization, prevention and reaction. They needed to establish international links with those who were experienced when it came to handling disasters. In formulating long-term strategies, there was a need to focus on disaster prevention as well.

Regarding the most recent disasters, Mr Titus said the focus had been on rescue and relief operations in the short term - that meant providing blankets and clothing, looking into health matters and emergency repairs. In the medium term they were looking at permanent repairs. The Cabinet was already providing leadership and had taken a decision that when heavy infrastructure such as roads and bridges had been damaged, they should be repaired immediately. He said this had led to wrong conclusions being drawn by other sectors - that people in the informal settlements affected by disaster were being left to fend for themselves. He claimed that this was not the case.

Incident Reports of Disasters
Mr George Kilian, Deputy Director: Disaster Management, said that there were still funding problems being experienced by the Eastern Cape government in connection with the Umtata disaster of December 1998. He said South Africa had been inundated with disasters and they were getting worse. He mentioned some of the areas hit by disasters as being the Western Cape, North West, Durban, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape.

White Paper on Disaster Management and the Disaster Management Bill
Mr Killain went over both the White Paper (published in December 1998) and the draft Bill with the committee. It is envisaged that the Bill will be submitted to Cabinet for approval by mid/end March 2000. The Bill endeavours to capture the new pre-disaster risk reduction approach relating to the prevention of disasters, preparedness for disasters and the mitigation of the consequences of a disaster, without neglecting the post-disaster recovery phase. The emphasis was previously on the post-disaster recovery phase.

Communication on Disaster Management
Mr F Lusen stated that the Communication Policy document on Disaster Management, launched on the 9 January, informs the public of government's disaster management policies. The Department of Provincial & Local Government had a leading role to play as regards co-ordination of communication to the public. He said there was a need for credible disaster management communication centres at provincial and national level for providing the public with information.

Round up
Mr Titus mentioned the resolutions adopted by Cabinet as regards natural disaster: In view of the weather prognosis for the near future, attention should be given to citizens living in flood-risk areas. Early warning devices should be catered for in the areas concerned. The quality of bridges and other infrastructure in these areas should be checked. Cabinet was driving this process.

A committee member asked if deaths resulting from livestock diseases were consistent with the definition of a disaster as understood by the Department?

Mr Titus replied that this was an agricultural matter and that there are laws dealing with this.

Another question was what was the government doing about the Eastern Cape disasters?

Mr Titus said they were being attended to but funding had been a problem for the Eastern Cape government. However there was money earmarked by the national government specifically for these disasters.

The Department was asked what it was doing about the prevention of disaster in the flood-risk area of Alexandria in Gauteng?

The answer was that warning bells had been put in place in Alexandria to alert people in advance. However these had been tampered with and vandalised, making Alexandira vulnerable. It was not the first time that people in Alexandria had been hit by flooding and people residing in flood-risk areas had been warned about the dangers after the 1995 floods. The problem was simply that of people not abiding to planning laws. His department was seriously considering not compensating people who knowingly stay in flood-risk areas and refuse to move as instructed to. In most cases a lack of law enforcement was a problem as regards removing people from flood-risk areas. Communities needed to be educated about disaster management.

A concern was raised regarding the distinction between a 'disaster' and an 'incident' as defined in the Disaster Management Bill. Mr Titus said that there was no easy answer to this.

Owing to time constraints, the meeting was adjourned.

Appendix 1


Since the occurrence of the disaster that struck Umtata on 15 December 1998 and disasters that occurred thereafter, a number of weaknesses have been identified in the present disaster management system. These weaknesses have been addressed in a number of Inter-departmental Disaster Management Committee (IDMC) meetings and will still be attended to in future. (See Annexure A).

A number of other disaster related issues that will be focused on during the year 2000 have also been identified and are mentioned in a document that has been prepared for the President's Coordinating Council (PCC). That document is attached hereto as Annexure B. The following issues have been identified as issues requiring urgent attention in 2000:

A draft Disaster Management Bill will soon be published for comment. It is envisaged that the draft Bill will be submitted to Cabinet by mid/end March 2000. The Bill endeavours to capture the new pre-disaster risk reduction approach relating to the prevention of disasters, preparedness for disasters and the mitigation of the consequences of a disaster, without neglecting the post-disaster recovery phase. (The emphasis was previously on the post-disaster recovery phase).

It is essential that a Disaster Management Bill be promulgated as soon as possible to replace the outdated Civil Protection Act, 1977 thus ensuring a uniform approach towards disaster management in the country.

Further development of the GIS
A Geographic Information System (GIS) has been introduced in the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC).

In order to give impetus to the paradigm shift from the post-disaster recovery phase to the pre-disaster risk reduction phase it is essential that the GIS be further developed. The aim of this system is to collate information which can be used to promote disaster management in general and to share that information with other role players e.g. provinces, municipalities, rural communities and other non-governmental organisations. It will enable relevant role players to implement disaster management at local level and to make information more user-friendly and practical for communities that suffer most when a disaster occurs.

With the necessary information it will also be possible to conduct needs and vulnerability assessments for the entire country in the medium to long term and to build a database which in turn could assist with more effective disaster management.

Reporting procedures / establishment of Joint Operations Centres (JOC's) to handle disasters
The procedure for reporting an incident / disaster is still not satisfactory. It still happens that personnel of the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) obtain news about a disaster-related incident from the media / radio / TV.

The procedure for the reporting of incidents as well as the procedure for the establishment of a JOC for the immediate handling of a disaster situation will once again be reviewed and discussed as an item on the IDMC and with other relevant role players. The IMC will be informed of a possible new approach in this regard in the near future. Provinces are encouraged to attend to this.

Disaster Management Manual
To ensure a uniform approach to disaster management it is necessary to provide a manual that would assist both the disaster management officials and the Chief Executive Officers of municipalities to exercise their duties.

The proposed disaster management manual has been drafted and will be finalised as soon as the Bill has been enacted. The index to the manual is attached.

(e) Training
The aspect of formal as well as informal disaster management training needs to be addressed urgently if any impact is to be made with the implementation of the White Paper on Disaster Management. The role players who fall within this scope are in the first instance provincial disaster management officials and, secondly, municipal officials and councillors. Donor funds to kick-start the process have been obtained for this purpose.

The aspect of educating the general public in the basic prevention and preparedness aspects of disaster management is something that should also be pursued in the medium to longer term. The ideal is that disaster management should be included in school curricula to make pupils at school level aware of the dangers of disasters.

(f) Mobilisation of NGO's and other sectors.
During some of the visits to disaster-stricken areas over the past few years, the mobilisation and coordination of NGO's and other sectors e.g. the private sector, utility companies such as Eskom and Telkom, and churches was identified as something that had not been explored to its full extent. This is receiving attention and several engagements with the NGO's have been held. Various NGO's and companies are mobilizing funds to assist in the current disasters.

(g) Coordination at political/administrative level.

We would welcome the comments of the IMC on this matter.

(h) Workshops will be arranged for provincial disaster management officials and members of the Inter-departmental Disaster Management Committee, to discuss the role, functions, responsibilities and procedures regarding the handling of disasters. The IMC's participation in this initiative would be most welcome.

(i) A study will be done on the disasters which occurred during the last ten years in order to establish disaster prone areas in South Africa and give advice to provinces in this regard.

(j) In the Disaster Management Manual attention will be given to, e.g., problems, possible solutions and various procedural matters.

Coordination at Ministerial level
Review of disasters that occurred since the previous IMC meeting held on
4 January 2000






6 January 2000

Heavy rain

Lichtenburg (Squatter Camp

North West


10 January 2000

Train accident




13 January 2000

Heavy rain

Koi Koi rural area (Mafikeng)

North West


15-20 January 2000

Fire disaster

Widespread area

Western Cape


15 January 2000

Rain and floods

Northern region
Lowveld region
Southern region



16 January 2000


Joe Slovo Informal Settlement

Western Cape


17 January 2000





25 January 2000

Tornado-like wind

Edendale (Pietermaritzburg)



2 February 2000

Tornado-like wind and hailstorm

Newcastle TLC and surrounding rural area of Umzinyathi Regional Council



8 February 2000

Heavy rain / floods

Eastern Gauteng Services Council region
ã Vaal Dam
ã Germiston Local Council
ã Nigel Local Council
ã Bronkhorstspruit Local
Greater Johannesburg Metro Council region
ã Alexandra
ã Bushkoppies, Soweto
ã Diepsloot
ã Zevenfontein
ã Tokoyo Sexwale Informal
ã Chris Hani, Soweto
ã Nancefield Hostel, Soweto
ã Freedom Square, Kliptown








9 February 2000

Train accident

± 12km south of Springfontein

Free State


11 February 2000

Floods : Northern Province and Mpumalanga


13 February 2000

Heavy rain

ã Brits area
ã Rustenburg/Sun City area ã Temba/Hammanskraal
ã Shuppingstad
ã Makgobistad
ã Madikwe Game Reserve

North West





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