Disaster Management Bill: Deliberations

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

11 September 2001
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


11 September 2001

Acting Chairperson: Mr MB Solo

Documents handed out:
Disaster Management Bill [B58 - 2001]

The Committee completed its clause-by-clause run-through of the Bill, only raising issues of concern to them. Some issues discussed were the incorporation of traditional leadership and community participation being clearly reflected in the Bill, the concept of cooperative governance which forms the framework for the Bill, distinguishing between 'disaster' and a 'declaration of a state of disaster' and again the broad definition of the 'disaster'.

The Chairperson noted there are some areas that need further consideration by the Department and that the Committee should look at these. One of the areas that the department wanted to look at was the definition of 'disaster'.

Mr Crome (Department) suggested that the Committee should consider the definition of 'disaster' only after they have gone through a clause-by-clause analysis of the whole Bill. He noted that the Department did not consider the definition as broad and for the time being they should keep the definition as it is until they have worked through the entire Bill.

The Chairperson agreed with this suggestion. He said that although there had been much debate in the previous meetin,g there had not been wide differences amongst the Committee on the issue. He commented that the issue of traditional leaders participating in the process had been sorted out. The issue of community participation would be looked at as they progress through the Bill in the meeting.

Ms G Borman (DP) disagreed that they had reached a consensus on the issue of traditional leaders.

Mr Y Carrim (ANC) agreed with Mr Crome that they must deal with the Bill clause by clause. Later when they return to each chapter again and find out what each party thinks, it is at that stage that they can discuss these issues. Mr Carrim noted that in the previous meeting, there had been a consensus that they should seek some ways to acknowledge the role that traditional leaders could play in disaster management and what the indigenous systems could play in responding to disaster.

The Chairperson asked department representatives to highlight those issues where consensus could not be reached.

Chapter 4: Provincial Disaster Management
Clause 28:
Each province to establish and implement a provincial policy framework which would be a provincial equivalent of the national framework. This framework will apply to all provincial organs of state, provincial statutory functionaries, non-governmental institutions involved in disaster management in the province and the private sector.

Part 2: Provincial disaster management centres
Clause 29:
Provides for the provincial disaster management centre, again this is a provincial equivalent of the national centre.

Clause 30: The duties and powers of the disaster management centre are explained in the same way as the national centers.

Clause 31: Provides for the head of the provincial disaster management centre, which is appointed by the province.

Clause 35: Disaster occurring or threatening to occur in provinces
When a disaster occurs in a province, the centre must immediately determine whether the occurrence is a disaster as per definition. Secondly it must assess the magnitude and severity of the disaster and inform the national centre.

Clause 40: Declaration of provincial state of disaster
Once a disaster has been classified as a provincial disaster and the province is unable to cope with that disaster in terms of its existing legislation, the Premier should declare a provincial state of disaster.

Mr P Smith (IFP), referring to clause 35, said that the consequences of the definition of disaster is such that the people from the disaster management centre could be legally obliged to react to incidents perceived as disasters but which are not. He thought that one should negate that possibility by narrowing the scope of the definition of 'disaster'.

Mr Carrim said that Mr Smith's point should be treated seriously by the Department. He added that Mr Smith should come up with suggestions on how would he like the definition of disaster to be amended.

Ms Borman said she was very concerned that communication between the disaster management centers and other stakeholders is extremely important. She would like a situation where, for example, there would be a telephone number that everybody would be able to use including the general public.

Mr L Buys (Department) replied that they had dealt with the question of communication very briefly last week, noting the introduction of a 112 number that will be used nationally. Otherwise what they have at the moment is a structure from municipal, provincial to national level that is already in their database. Whatever happens from municipal via provincial and national level is received simultaneously. He assured the Committee that their communication on the ground works very efficiently.

The Chairperson acknowledged that Ms Borman's point is a very important one. To what extent do they have effective communication?

Mr Buys made an example of the action that they had taken at the Kruger National Park where a fire had broken out recently. There had been no declaration of disaster there but if the department had not have responded as swiftly as it did, the fire could have spilled over to neighbouring countries. He said these things should be looked at in the sense that certain preventative actions could be taken within the ambit of the definition.

Mr Carrim conveyed a message of appreciation complimenting the department on their quick response to the Kruger Park incident.

Ms Borman said she understood what Mr Buys had said but she wanted clarity on whether it is possible for the different people involved in disaster management such as the military, police and firefighters to communicate directly with the department.

Mr Buys responded that it is not possible to communicate with the military and police, especially when they are using aircraft. Land to air communication is not accessible to everybody. For example, they use two way radios and those channels of communication are very restricted and are used for very particular purposes. He made an example of the Kruger Park incident where he was able to communicate with all the people even those who were flying helicopters. But he had to do that not in his own office but from facilities in the centre.

Ms Borman pointed to Clause 38: Disaster management plans for provinces. She cited Clause 38(3), which says municipal organs of state in the province, to the extent required by the province, must co-operate with the province in preparing a disaster management plan for the province. She suggested that the subclause should be phrased in such a way that would forge a cooperative relationship with the business sector. She added that this clause sounds prescriptive.

Mr Crome said the idea behind this clause is to put all these functions in terms of the system of cooperative governance. He assured the Committee that the intention is cooperative governance, otherwise the system is not going to work without it.

The Committee agreed to revisit the wording of Clause 38(3).

Chapter 5: Municipal Disaster Management
Clause 41:
Mr Crome said the aim of this section is to establish a policy framework for disaster management in the municipality.

The Chairperson asked that throughout this Bill there are frameworks from national, provincial and now municipal level, which one comes first.

Mr Crome replied that the national framework is a broad one and deals with national policy, other frameworks are there to provide support to the national one. What is important is that the provincial and municipal frameworks must be consistent with the national framework.

Mr Carrim said consultation with the community in shaping this framework is also very important. Ordinary citizens should be more involved, their participation should be central in disaster management.

Mr Smith asked where the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the Municipal Police feature in the whole scenario. Who directs SAPS and who directs municipal police in terms of these provisions?

Mr Buys replied that what happens currently is that at the national, provincial and local level there is a National Operational Command and Coordinating Centre (NOCOCC) where the police, defence and the intelligence are working together. If for instance resources are not enough at local level, they will contact their structures at the provincial. If again it is beyond provincial capability, they will contact the national level.

The Chairperson wanted to know where this NOCOCC is reflected in the Bill so that everyone could have a common understanding. Mr Smith asked the same question - what is the legal position concerning these structures, to whom are they answerable.

The first question was not answered. Mr Crome, responding to the latter part of the question, saying that the defence, police and intelligence are answerable to the government. Disaster management is not merely a security response, it is part of a developmental foundation and different approaches in dealing with a particular situation. But he agreed that there is a need to put something in the Bill that will make them answerable to the system as a whole.

Mr Crome told the Committee that they should look at various provisions in the Bill. He referred them back to Clause 23 where a disaster is classified either as a local, provincial or national disaster. What Clause 23(8) is saying is that there should be an allocation of primary responsibility to a particular sphere of government for co-ordination and management of the disaster, but an organ of state in another sphere may assist the sphere having primary responsibility to deal with the disaster and its consequences.

He said the same message is made clear in Clause 26(3) that a provincial or municipal organ of state must assist in a national disaster and they should work in close cooperation with other spheres of government. Again the same message is contained in Clause 39 on provincial disaster and Clause 50 on local disaster.

Mr P Bouwer, the departmental legal advisor, said if one looks at the structure of the Bill, the main approach is that of cooperation and coordination. The operational aspects of managing a disaster already provide some linkages with other structures.

Mr Carrim said he was not questioning the intellectual, political or legal coherence of the Bill. But what he was saying is that the organs of state mentioned in the Bill do not cover the apparatus of this country. He added again that acronyms like NOCOCC are not mentioned in the Bill.

Mr Buys said the joint operation centre is where every initial step is taken in any disaster situation. It is where the police, defence and municipalities make decisions about issues such as whether roads should be closed, people should be removed etc.

Clause 42: Establishment
The District municipality must establish a disaster management centre for its municipal area. And also establish a centre of consultation with the local municipalities in the area.

Mr Smith noted this management centre is an institution and is a physical place, what is the purpose of the consultation?

The Chairperson wanted to know when the community is brought into that process. The Committee has to look at how to sensitize the community around disaster management.

Mr Buys agreed that it is important to involve the community when they are drawing up the framework. But the Committee should think about the situation very seriously: when a disaster occurs, very quick responses are expected from disaster management and there is no time to consult the community before taking action. He said it is important to put this in the framework but practically it is impossible.

Mr Carrim replied that people are not saying there should be a meeting between disaster management and the community, it is about having the framework for bringing awareness to the people about the current state of affairs.

Clause 51: Declaration of local state of disaster
Rev Goosen said he had a problem with Clause 51(a) because it implies that if the municipality does have existing legislation and contingency arrangements are adequate, the municipality must not declare a disaster. Mr Carrim also asked what happens if contingency arrangements are adequate.

Dr Bouwer replied that a difference must be drawn between a declaration of a state of disaster and a disaster. Once a local disaster has occurred with adequate contingency arrangements, the local municipality must deal with it. But when a local disaster cannot be adequately dealt with by the municipality, they must declare a local state of disaster.

Mr Carrim suggested that it would be correct and simpler to distinguish this by saying a 'classification of disaster' and a 'declaration of a state of disaster'.

The Committee went through Chapter 6 (Funding of post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation) and there were no questions of clarity concerning this chapter.

The meeting was adjourned.


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