Durban — The Democratic Alliance (DA) leader in KwaZulu-Natal, Francois Rodgers, said concerns by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) over the flood victims are long overdue.
Rodgers said the SAHRC’s alarm comes just two days after the DA handed over a memorandum of demands, calling for urgent intervention from the commission as almost 3 000 people continue to live under appalling conditions in community halls as a result of government inaction.
In a statement released by the SAHRC on Wednesday, it admitted that it received a complaint from the DA at the end of July relating to concerns with the plight of victims that had been displaced by floods and who were being sheltered in various mass care centres. Furthermore, the commission confirmed that it has interacted with both the national and certain provincial structures (KZN and Gauteng) of the DA in the past few days. It said it is aware of the protest marches by regional structures of the DA to two of the SAHRC’s provincial offices as well as the media interest in the wake of such protests.
“The SAHRC, through its KZN provincial office, has been monitoring and continues to do so on behalf of and with a view to protecting the rights of flood victims. This work has been ongoing since the floods hit the KZN province in April 2022. The commission has also done likewise in the province of the Eastern Cape, parts of which were also affected by floods earlier this year,” the SAHRC said.
Rodgers said it was ironic that the SAHRC had decided to finally voice their concerns days after their march to their KZN offices. He said these are the very same issues that they had raised on numerous occasions with the SAHRC since flood victims were first left destitute six months ago.
“It is unacceptable that the DA had to go to such lengths to force the commission to act and fulfil its mandate. While we welcome their long-overdue response, it cannot be the last time we hear from them on this matter. We will continue to closely monitor the commission’s involvement. KZN’s flood victims deserve to be treated with dignity. The SAHRC must step up and play its critical role,” Rodgers said.
The SAHRC said that soon after the floods, it reinforced its efforts in KZN by establishing a task team comprising, among others, three commissioners to assess the extent of the devastation and needs that pertained and, in this regard, to liaise with civil society organisations and relevant government entities.
“In mobilising other stakeholders, the SAHRC approached, among others, the Forum of Institutions Supporting Democracy, including the office of the Auditor-General and proposed a joint effort towards helping the victims of the floods in KZN and strengthening financial accountability. Civil society partners continue to be helpful at this stage of the response to the disaster. The Commission also established a monitoring framework to guide institutional responses to the flood disaster.
“The primary aim of the commission was to liaise with the KZN provincial government and to draw its attention to areas of need, especially dire need, to monitor the rebuilding plans of the provincial government, to liaise with relevant national government departments, where necessary, to hold the government accountable for its commitments, actions as well as the resources utilised towards providing relief to flood victims, especially relief, to avoid hunger,” said SAHRC.
Moreover, the SAHRC said it held several engagements with the Premier of KZN and members of the executive committees, during which the provincial government shared their response plans and also accounted for the implementation thereof.
The commission said as part of the process, they have met with the Minister of Human Settlements, Mmamoloko Kubayi, delegates from relevant provincial departments, eThekwini and other stakeholders, to seek updates on measures being implemented to fast-track durable solutions, especially with reference to housing.
“However, the focus of the interventions of the SAHRC has not been limited to housing, access to water or food only but has covered all the needs of flood victims, especially where rights are or have a high risk of being violated,” the SAHRC said.