Disaster Management Bill: public hearing

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

28 August 2001
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

28 August 2001

Chairperson: Mr Y Carrim assisted by Mr B Solo

Disaster Management Institute of South Africa
South African Insurance Association
Disaster Management Centre at Technikon SA
South African Local Government Association (SALGA)
National House of Traditional Leaders
Disaster Mitigation for Sustainable Livelihoods Project (document awaited)
Municipal Demarcation Board
Disaster Management Official - City of Cape Town municipality

Relevant document:
Draft Disaster Management Bill

Some of the concerns raised by the submissions were:
- there needed to be an appropriately qualified person appointed to deal with disaster management at provincial and local level, not only at national level.
- the placement of the disaster management function in all three spheres of government for rapid and effective coordination.
- lack of consideration for prevention and mitigation at municipal level.
- insufficient clarity with regard to funding
- the ability of local government, particularly the district municipalities, to fulfill its obligations with the limited finances at its disposal
- inadequate provision for the compensation of volunteers in the event of death, bodily injury or disablement.
- little commitment to capacity building and training of volunteers.
- need to involve volunteers in a way that harnessed indigenous/traditional knowledge on prevention and mitigation
- inadequate capacity and skills to ensure that all disaster management centres function properly
- risk reduction needs to be seen as a process involving "civil society"
- no strategic agenda for risk reduction research and disaster risk education and training,
- the lack of emergency planning for special events

The Chairperson, in his introduction, made reference to President Mbeki's declaration of a state of emergency in the Western Cape the previous day as an illustration of the importance of the legislation under discussion. He hoped that government capacity to deal with disaster would continue to be improved as a consequence of the work begun in the committee. He then went on to explain the value of the public submissions, as well as advising those making submissions that the committee would make every effort to keep them abreast of developments.

Disaster Management Institute of South Africa
Ms. Reid, the Institute's president, raised the point that, while the Bill made provision for the appointment of a person as head of the National Centre for Disaster Management, this is not mirrored by similar appointments at the provincial and municipal level. The argument for such specialised appointments at these levels is that the aims of the Bill are unlikely to be met without staff appropriately qualified in disaster management being placed at all levels.

Her second point looked at the placement of the disaster management function in all three spheres of government. Here the distinction between line and management functions is drawn, and it is argued that such disaster management should be a management function, and the appointment of functionaries as well as the structure of governmental disaster management responses should reflect this.

The next issue is the apparent lack of consideration for prevention and mitigation, a key feature of the Bill, at municipal level. It is felt that this is the level at which such considerations are most important and consequently, this appears to be a gross oversight.

The fourth point in the submission was that of funding. Ms. Reid warned that there seemed to be insufficient clarity with regard to funding, leading to the continuation of the situation whereby municipalities viewed disaster management as 'an unfunded mandate' and consequently did not necessarily take adequate steps to address it.

The final point of concern was that the Bill did not make adequate provision for the compensation of volunteers in the event of death, bodily injury or disablement. Further there seemed to be little commitment to capacity building and training of volunteers. While it may be argued that this would have been taken care of in the regulations, it was felt that this was insufficient and would compromise the volunteer base central to disaster relief and management.

South African Insurance Association
Ms. Du Plessis briefly detailed the Association's support for the Bill, particularly the emphasis on prevention. The Association believes that there is a significant role that business could play in all spheres, but particularly with risk management. The submission also indicated that the association accepted the offer in the National Disaster Advisory Forum.

Disaster Management Centre at Technikon SA
Mr van Niekerk noted the Centre's support for the emphasis on minimising vulnerability to disaster as well as for the provisions on the collection, recording and dissemination of information related to disaster relief in the Bill. This submission also raised the point of the placement of the disaster management function, arguing that connection with the Executive was vital to rapid and effective disaster management.

The next point also echoed that of Ms. Reid of DMISA that at provincial and local level, there needed to be an appropriately qualified person appointed to deal with disaster management (DM).

The final point was that there was insufficient provision for volunteers. It was felt that more was needed, specifically concerning injury or death whilst involved in DM as well as the need to involve volunteers in a way that makes allowances for indigenous/traditional knowledge on prevention and mitigation.

Mr Smith (IFP) asked if the omission of the recommended considerations on volunteers had been deliberate or not. He also asked what the performance contract conditions were for the respective heads of the DM units at each level and how they had been decided, how funding for DM was being dealt with and raised a question about the Bill's constitutionality in terms of the way it dealt with the interaction between the three levels of government.

Mr Viljoen (Department of Provincial and Local Government) indicated that the omission of volunteers had not been a deliberate omission and that the feeling had been that volunteers would be addressed by the regulations and policy framework.

Ms. Reid said that this posed problems since between the passing of the Bill and the formation of the framework, volunteers would not be covered.

Mr Carrim asked if there would be a problem with including a provision to guard against this.

Mr Jordaan of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) pointed out that if there was a period without cover for volunteers, this interim phase could lead to a catastrophe by 'un-manning' local government.

Mr Smith asked whether section 9 of the Civil Protection Act could not be reinstated

Prof. Holloway stated that it was not unusual to include a provision concerning volunteers, and indeed that this was part of international Best Practice.

A speaker for the department pointed out that Clause 57 of the Bill stated that section 9 of the old act continues to apply during the transitional phase. With regard to the constitutionality issue, local government has had the capacity to act allocated to it, prior to the new Bill.

Ms. Reid returned to the issue of volunteers, pointing out that Clause 57 of the Bill only applies to people who have claimed prior to the repeal of the Act.

The Chairperson reaffirmed that the government and all parties concerned were amenable to the alterations suggested, and gave his support for a fuller investigation into the issue of the applicability of the Bill in terms of the Constitution.

Mr Smith then returned to his request for clarification with regard to the setting of performance standards.

Mr Carrim pointed out that Mr Buys, the person best in a position to respond to a number of these questions, was absent due to the declaration of a state of emergency in the Western Cape.

In answer to Mr Smith's question on how funding for DM was being dealt with, the Department suggested that the funding would be found, and was linked to the transformation of local government. It was suggested that municipalities were not expected to engage in major restructuring, as a modem connection was all that was needed to access the relevant DM information from National Government.

Mr Carrim pointed out that this was in a way linked to the issue of appointing appropriately trained DM managers.

Ms. Reid criticised the Department's response, saying that the issue went beyond accessing information and concerned capacity building, especially in terms of risk reduction and prevention.

[At this point Mr Carrim excused himself, leaving Mr Solo (ANC) as acting chairperson.]

With regard to the funding issue, the Department recognised the importance of local government making allowances for DM in the restructuring process, as failure to do so could result in any developmental efforts being undone. The Department accepted that it needed to fund restructuring and suggested that some of the funding could also come from local revenue. It was also pointed out that the department was currently engaged with the Treasury to ensure that funding to manage larger disasters would be financed.

One of the representatives from SALGA, Mr Motala urged the Department and the Committee not to leave the funding issue hanging, as some of the new municipalities had no capacity for DM whatsoever, and provision had to be made for them.

A representative from the Department acknowledged this, saying that some new municipalities lacked basic infrastructure and consequently, very little was expected of them in this regard. She also said that the Minister was working on a strategy to deal with municipalities without an identifiable tax base and a number of options had been proposed, such as national level funding and revenue sharing. These were being investigated.

In response to a question by Rev. Goosen (ANC), the Department indicated that it was required to cost the Bill, and to the extent that current revenue services were insufficient, applications could be made to increase the equitable share.

Ms. Du Plessis (SAIA) suggested that at the moment, the municipalities were not receiving their equitable share. She then asked how this would be ensured.

The department members again returned to the point that there was a restructuring process in progress which made it difficult to identify for definite whether funding was to be from revenue or the equitable share. But it was indicated that there would be no other sources of funding. It was also pointed out that the allocation of funding depended on where the function was located.

Mr Smith asked whether it followed automatically that funds had to be allocated prior to the carrying out of the function.

Mr Carrim, having returned to the meeting, said that funding was related to the division of powers and function and many of these questions would be addressed by the Portfolio Committee during September.

South African Local Government Association (SALGA)
Mr Motala stated that SALGA had very few problems with the Bill. The submission dealt primarily with SALGA's support for the foregrounding of issues related to co-ordinated approaches towards DM between all three spheres of government.

Concerns expressed were that there was inadequate capacity, knowledge and skills to ensure that all the proposed DM centres could function properly and that there was a lack of funding, particularly since the Bill refers only to post-disaster funding, ignoring the financial assistance needed to improve capacity.

Recommendations regarding inadequate capacity were that support for the training of staff, as well as "the building of capacity amongst its political leadership" (p4), should be encouraged as should DM training programs such as that conducted by Technikon SA.

With regard to funding, SALGA recommended that cost subsidies be provided to district municipalities for the establishment of DM centres by means of equitable share allocations and that the national government provide some measure of the operational funding for the first five years after the establishment of DM centres.

SALGA also raised a concern over the fragmentation of emergency communication caused by placing the administration of the emergency telephone services in the hands of the Department of Communications instead of the Department of Provincial and Local Government, arguing that this might result in duplication of services which was unacceptable. In conclusion, attention was again directed at concerns for the ability of local government, particularly the district municipalities, to fulfill its obligations with the limited finances at its disposal.

National House of Traditional Leaders
Mr Suping noted that the House had only received the Bill a week ago and thus had only had time to make a few brief points. The general nature of these comments was that the Bill did not give enough attention to the potentially invaluable role that traditional leaders could play in DM. He pointed out that volunteering was in many cases linked to traditional leaders, and that the traditional leaders were in a position to harness the immense knowledge of people who had been dealing with disasters for a long time.

Mr Carrim pointed out, that while he accepted the comments with regard to the short notice, the Committee exceeded the basic requirements for advertising the Bill and inviting public submissions, because it had issued written invitations to potentially interested parties to make submissions.

Mr Solo said that the National House of Traditional Leaders had made an important point relating to volunteers and traditional leaders, and suggested that there should be more input on this matter. He also asked Mr Suping to elaborate on something he had mentioned regarding a horn.

Mr Suping said that the horn was the traditional method of warning about a disaster in traditional societies. He emphasised that traditional leaders would like to continue to assist in DM.

Mr Carrim asked why there was no mention of traditional leaders and traditional responses, when presumably they represented a wealth of experience. He said that the Committee would welcome a fuller submission from the House within two weeks, adding that he felt there was scope to include traditional leaders and their responses in the Bill.

A representative of SALGA stated that traditional leaders were of critical importance, recommending inclusion in the regulations. But Mr Carrim stated that he would like a broader view, in the law and stated his intention to pursue the matter.

Mr Buys for the department, said that while there was no specific reference to traditional leaders, he did not think there would be any problem incorporating one. He mentioned that the department, recognising the experience of traditional leaders, had already planned to look at their role in the regulations but would investigate the inclusion of a reference in the Bill.

Rev. Goosen (ANC) pointed out that type B municipalities had not been considered in the same light as types A & C when larger municipalities, in terms of geographic size, could be placed under some pressure.

Mr Smith (IFP) put a question to the representatives of SALGA, asking why they were prepared to fund an unfunded mandate when Parliament had a constitutional responsibility to fund it. He also asked if the mandate had been assigned, and if so, in terms of what law.

SALGA's Mr Motala stated that the Bill addressed the location of the function, but not its organisation. Thus, while it was proposed that the function be located at district level, the organisation would depend on the individual contexts. He also said that the first priority was to get some funding secured for the first five years, and this could later be incorporated into the equitable share. Mr Jordaan (SALGA) explained that they had been implementing the principles of the White Paper concurrently with the Civil Protection Act and it was felt that this would go some way to facilitating the transition.

Mr Carrim returned to the issue of fragmentation of services, particularly concerning the emergency numbers, which had been raised by another speaker.

Mr Buys pointed out that there was fragmentation due to the history of the services and the buying policies which had resulted in for example radios in emergency service which could not communicate with each other since they were operating on different band widths etc. He said that standardisation would be addressed through the refurbishment process. As concerns the emergency number, they are moving towards one emergency number countrywide, with regional control rooms. He said that the contentious issue was the intermediary control room which hampered responses, and that a task team had been set up to investigate this. He also said that there was the situation in some municipalities where the police sat in the control centres to ensure quick responses.

Ms. Reid of DMISA made the point that the Cape fires was made much worse by the lack of a central control room which could have co-ordinated the response and made understanding of the pattern of the fires easier to see and thus predict.

Disaster Mitigation for Sustainable Livelihoods Project (DMSLP) from UCT
The first main point raised was that the Bill devoted insufficient attention to building local resilience. Poverty increases vulnerability to disaster, and disaster resulted from accumulated risk (which implies that there should be more focus on the cumulative effect of smaller disasters than has been the case). Thus risk reduction should focus on addressing vulnerability to disaster, with participatory engagement seen as a vital part of the process.

The second main point was that the Bill needed to do more to address the issue of good governance. It was felt that there was a focus on enhancing institutional capacity and the centralisation of authority, which ignored the fact that risk reduction needs to be seen as a process involving "civil society" and special risk groups. This is in line with the idea that consultative risk reduction was necessary, facilitating good governance and improved management and prevention. This was linked to the submission by Mr Suping, and broadened to include the community as an important contributor to DM.

The final main point was that the Bill did not do enough to engage with scientific practices, since there was no strategic agenda for risk reduction research, particularly in linking social with natural sciences. It was felt that there was a need to optimise local institutions such as churches and schools to play a role in education about DM and thus facilitate disaster reduction. This also enabled the research carried out to be disseminated to the communities who would benefit from it. It was suggested research should focus on developing a better understanding of the complex nature of risk. It was also suggested that there needed to be a strategy for disaster risk education and training, not only in universities but also in developing the skills of emergency workers as well as a co-ordinated attempt to integrate community knowledge about DM.

Municipal Demarcation Board
Dr. Sutcliffe criticised the continuing geographic definitions of disasters, with respect to the distinction between local and national disasters. He said that this did not necessarily take into account the possible impact that a local disaster could have nationally.

He also said that the lack of capacity alluded to was a function of history and that the Bill did not go far enough in making provision to reverse these historical trends. The challenge was to ensure that disasters became capacity building opportunities to reduce the risk of future disasters.

He called for the standardisation of databases, saying that he foresaw difficulties if the intention was to have national, provincial and local centres which may define various disasters in different ways. Thus similar incidents may be defined as national or local, depending in part on the capacity of each region to deal with the problem. He proposed a single national centre, geographically dispersed throughout the various regions. It was suggested that this avoided the constitutional issue brought up by Mr Smith.

Linked to the point about the historical factors in many disasters, Dr. Sutcliffe used the example of cholera to explain that municipal expenditure, such as on providing water and sewerage services, was more important than health expenditure, even though cholera is largely seen as a health issue. Here again, the point was that infrastructure and capacity building were central to the mitigation, and prevention, of disasters.

Rev. Goosen suggested that there was a need to be pro-active in deciding what disasters were likely and in the planning of development and the Integrated Development Plan. He echoed the point that domestic disasters could lead to national disasters, and education was thus a key factor.

Mr Smith supported the contention that DM be equated with development. He also pointed out that while definitions may be geographical, there was the space for national government to override and become involved, although this was not strongly phrased. He pointed out the problem with the alternative conception suggested in a sense by Dr. Sutcliffe, which could lead to the distinction between national and local disasters becoming meaningless. He also said in response to Mr Sutcliffe's submission that while a single national centre might side-step the problem of constitutionality, there would then be a question regarding how resources could be mobilised at the local level, if it was not part of the municipality.

Ms. Reid also sought to clarify the issue of disaster classification, saying that the declaration of a disaster was directly related to the capacity of that particular division of government to cope. When the disaster was beyond the capacity of the particular service, the classification was revised.

However, the point raised by a representative from the DMSLP was that, because of the cumulative effect of disasters, the classification of disasters was more complicated. This was linked to international thinking on the subject.

Dr. Sutcliffe said that there was a tendency to underdevelop areas without capacity by sending in resources from more developed areas. As an example, he said a flood in Kwazulu Natal might lead to engineers and DM specialists being dispatched from Durban to deal with the problem, but once the problem had been solved and the region rebuilt, the specialists leave and the area is again lacking in capacity. He also said that he was not advocating declaring local disasters as national ones, but merely that these issues should be addressed developmentally, linked to a broader context.

[Not all the questions in this section of the meeting were captured]

Mr Ardiel Soeker, Groundwork's Air Quality Project Coordinator, introduced groundwork as a non-profit environmental justice service and developmental organization working primarily in South Africa but increasingly in Southern Africa. He told the committee that Groundwork seeks to improve the quality of life of vulnerable people in South Africa and Southern Africa through assisting civil society to have a greater impact on environmental governance. Groundwork places particular emphasis on assisting vulnerable and previously disadvantaged peoples who are most affected by environmental injustices.

Mr P Smith said he had a problem with the definition of disaster as presented by Groundwork because he thought some industrial accidents, which are merely negligence on the part of authorities in a particular industry, do not constitute a disaster. Also industrial pollution, which affects people on a daily basis, should not be regarded as a disaster. He wondered to what extent there is an obligation on the government to deal with these situations. He said that there is a need for a definition of what sort of incidents should be regarded as a disaster and when the government is expected to intervene.

Mr Soeker responded that they would like the Bill to address industrial incidents specifically. It is also important to look at ongoing pollution that occurs at refineries and ultimately affects the lives of the people.

Mr Mshudulu (ANC) asked if Groundwork has contacted other relevant departments such as the Departments of Labour and Minerals & Energy in its formulation of the definition of a disaster and to discuss issues of occupational safety.

Mr Soeker replied that in Sasolburg they have been liaising with trade unions as well as the Department of Labour to establish how the department is monitoring the situation there. Groundwork's experience is that it is a very difficult exercise and it takes a long time for the Department of Labour to respond to disaster-related incidents as well as to get a report of what happened in which area.

Rev. A Goosen (ANC) said all that Groundwork has presented is also found in the National Environmental Management Act. The Act ensures that a factory must close down until such time that it complies with the required standards. If industrial accidents are included in this Bill, it would mean a duplication of the Environmental Management Act.

Mr Soeker replied that it is important that people are made aware of what is taking place around them and they must know what to do in the event of any disaster. It does not matter whether that would be a duplication of the Environmental Management Act or not.

Mr P Smith (IFP) asked if industrial pollution has disastrous consequences for people.

Mr Soeker replied that when pollution occurs ordinary people do not know how dangerous the fumes are and what consequences that this can have to the health of the community. There is no doubt that impact on people's health will be severe in a long term. There should be a monitoring system that would work with the industries to improve the situation.

Dr P Bouwer from the Department said concerning the definition of a disaster it is not the definition that is a problem, but rather how disaster manifests itself on a grassroots level. If for instance people on the ground cannot manage an incident or problem that can be called a disaster. He said it is a question of judgement.

Mr Mshudulu said he wanted to sensitize groundwork around section 23 of the Disaster Management Bill. He said in Sasolburg factories are around residential areas and one wonders where are those gas pipes moving. One could say disaster threatens to occur in these areas anytime.

The chairperson asked the presenter from GroundWork when he suggested that in clause 17(2)(I) there should be an inclusion of the state of emergency preparedness in the various industries. What did he mean by that?

Mr Soeker replied that what they are asking is that not only the industries should develop a state of readiness to respond to accident that happens, but that response needs to incorporate the community as well. For example in some factories, workers and the industry have an evacuation plan, but for communities around it is not said how they should react in such a situation.

Mr Buys from the department told the committee that they had a similar input as Mr Soeker, but argued that implementation of such a system is not possible because the areas are developed already. He said people should look at to what extent other legislations in the country deal with measures and prevention of accidents. In terms of disaster one must keep in mind that the Bill clearly states that there is a recognition of other national legislation that deals with a number of issues like for example veld fires, nuclear reactions and so on. This means that a particular Act cannot deal with a range of incidents effectively on its own.

Ms G Borman (DP) said this emphasizes the need for developmental planning. She added that this area of disaster management needs more focus and in future the Committee should be empowered to make input in terms of developmental planning.

The chairperson added that they also need engineers because they are the ones who plan everything.

Disaster Management Official - City of Cape Town municipality
Mr Pluke, Co-ordinator of the Disaster Management Project in the City of Cape Town municipality, spoke in his personal capacity. He raised the issue of emergency planning for special events which he thought is not legislated in any Act of Parliament.

The promoters and organizers of events held in big venues do not possess any special training or knowledge to perceive threats and implement emergency planning to prevent or mitigate incidents from occurring. The Disaster management Bill should address this problem and (a) regulate that venue owners undergo special training at accredited institutions if the capacity is over one thousand people; (b) ensure emergency planning should be made a priority; (c) have accredited training institutions and instruction established for such presentations; (d) have disaster management officials ensure that pre-planning is addressed.

City of Cape Town municipality is involved in emergency planning of all special events in the city. They found that the managers of the stadiums and halls have no concept of planning for these events and have no pre-planning to control vulnerable crowds and stampedes.

Ms Borman said stadiums should have properly trained security guards because most of them are only trained to patrol shopping malls. She proposed using a volunteer corps trained for that purpose. This volunteer corps could provide the service and levy a fee to the event organizers that will help the municipality to reimburse the volunteers. That will create job opportunities in some way.

Mr Pluke agreed that Ms Borman's suggestion is a good idea, however, he said that the issue here is an emergency controller. This person will ensure that emergency evacuation systems are in place and there are more volunteers in all the venues.

Mr Mshudulu argued that all owners of venues should be directly involved in the pre-planning of events.

Mr Pluke noted that organisers sometimes underestimate the number of people who come to their events. Again in their pre-planning meetings there is no one who has the authority and knowledge of whether a venue can accommodate so many people.

Mr Carrim (ANC) wanted to know whether what has been said by Mr Pluke is the official position of the City of Cape Town. He reminded him that they are dealing with a Bill and that they would need the official position of Cape Town on this issue. Mr Mshudulu added that the one page document presented by Mr Pluke was not an official document from the Cape Town city council.

Mr Pluke repeated that he was there in his personal capacity. He said that what he wanted the Committee to review was recognised occupational safety courses that venue owners should have to undergo. There are no emergency courses that deal with issues such as how to manage bomb threats. That is why he felt he could make a personal contribution to the deliberations.

Mr Carrim assured Mr Pluke that he had a right to be at the meeting and that any member of the public is entitled to appear before the Committee to present oral evidence. However he said Mr Mshudulu is correct to say that the presentation might be misunderstood in the sense that it is Mr Pluke's point of view and not an official position.

The meeting was adjourned.


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