Overhaul of South Africa’s disaster management system on the table

 ·22 Feb 2024

The National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) wants South Africa’s disaster management systems to be overhauled, along with new legislation to be implemented to fix the state’s disaster response capabilities.

Natural disasters have had a devastating impact on South Africa and its economy, often catching the government off guard and (at times) unprepared to respond.

According to the 2023 Disaster Risk Finance Diagnostic report by the National Treasury, South Africa “is highly exposed to climatic shocks, particularly droughts, which undermine efforts to stimulate growth,” resulting in over 3,000 deaths and R172 billion in total losses experienced over the last 51 years.

This data does not include the approximately R2 billion devastation caused by the KwaZulu Natal floods at the end of 2023.

As such Deputy Director-General of the NDMC, Dr. Elias Sithole, stressed the need for a complete overhaul of the disaster management system to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance Traditional Affairs on February 21.

He said this, along with new legislation, would better prepare the country to respond to natural disasters such as floods, droughts, and fires.

“When disasters happen, we often see NGOs on the scene first,” said Sithole, adding that “municipalities and other state agencies arrive late.”

“The question is, why take so long to respond? Through the review process and overhaul of the disaster management system, we want to close the gaps and improve our response capabilities,” he added.

According to Sithole, the NDMC has been focusing on enhancing the national risk information platforms since 2022.

The deputy director-general said that they have attempted to make sure that the web-based platform is functional, regularly updated with new risk information data, and easily accessible to the disaster management entities at the provincial and district levels.

NDMC has also been working on streamlining disaster risk management research to address the existing gaps and inform policies.

As such, Sithole said that numerous partnerships have been established in attempts to better its capabilities.

NDMC and SA Weather Service have signed a new agreement with costs that allow for the development of new data products that monitor climate variability and change impacts.

Additionally, examples of partnerships that have been established were presented, which include:

  • Lesotho;
  • The UN Office of Outer Space Affairs;
  • The UNESCO Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System;
  • The International Charter for Space and Major Disasters.

“These agreements provide an advancement to core business objectives of the NDMC in terms of early warnings,” and research said Sithole.

Read: R2 billion-plus disaster for South Africa

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