Fred Nel MPL
DA Gauteng Spokesperson for Local Government
The Gauteng Provincial Government will not be able to respond to a major disaster in the new financial year due to an insufficient budget. The provincial government will be solely dependent on local authorities to respond to a major disaster, many of whom are understaffed insofar as their emergency services are concerned.
This was revealed on Friday during a budget hearings presentation by the Department of Local Government and Housing, which is responsible for disaster management.
This revelation is of major concern to the Democratic Alliance as it could possibly mean that the lives of many of Gauteng’s residents may be at stake during a major or even minor disaster.
The Gauteng MEC for Local Government and Housing, Humphrey Mmemezi, did however indicate that they have raised the matter with both the provincial treasury and the national government. A problem is that funds forthcoming from national government in the event of a disaster may take six months or longer to release. He also indicated that they will rely heavily on the private sector for donations during a disaster.
During a disaster the provincial government must have funds available to it immediately in order to purchase much needed supplies. We cannot land in the same situation as the Department of Health when it was unable to pay its bills and suppliers stopped supplying much needed services.
Disaster management is the primary responsibility of government which must make sufficient provision to respond to emergencies and not hope to receive handouts from the private sector.
I call on the MEC for Local Government and Housing in Gautengto conduct an immediate audit into the staffing requirements of municipal emergency services and to formulate a plan to fill vacant posts immediately so that Gauteng is ready to respond to a major emergency.
I also call on the MEC to ensure that a voluntary programme is launched among Gauteng residents to train voluntary emergency workers who can be activated to help out during a disaster.
Lastly I call on the provincial treasury to ensure that emergency services and the Disaster Management Centre of the province is adequately funded to respond to any major disaster.