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Closing remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the meeting with the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Sihle Zikalala,
Mayor of eThekwini, Cllr Mxolisi Kaunda,
President of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Nigel Ward,
Ministers and MECs,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Good morning,
 
I wish to thank the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry for inviting us to this productive engagement.
 
As government, we are firmly committed to give the business community in KwaZulu-Natal all the necessary support, resources and technical capacity to recover from these catastrophic events.
 
Prior to travelling here I met with the respective Ministers and officials to receive reports on progress that has been made in the multisectoral flood response and recovery plan.
 
The KwaZulu-Natal economy is a vital part of the national economy.
 
The economic reconstruction and recovery underway across the country in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot succeed without the swift, comprehensive and sustainable recovery of the economy of KwaZulu-Natal.
 
Declaring the floods as a national state of disaster has enabled us to mobilise more resources, capabilities and technical expertise within the necessarily timeframes.
 
As business, your concerns and challenges are very specific.
 
Damage to key economic infrastructure such as roads, energy transmission and distribution, water and sanitation facilities and the port of Durban has had – and continues to have – a dire impact on your operations.
 
We are also keenly aware that the economy of KwaZulu-Natal is still struggling to recover from last July’s unrest and the impact of a global pandemic that is now in its third year.
 
We have heard from Premier Zikalala, Mayor Kaunda and Ministers on the progress that has been made in the restoration and rebuilding effort.
 
Sectors that power the provincial economy such as manufacturing, FMCG, retail and wholesale, distribution, warehousing and freight have been particularly hard hit by these floods.
 
Given the importance of the Port of Durban to the national and continental economy, restoring operations and rehabilitating damaged port and associated infrastructure has been a priority.
 
We welcome the pace of progress towards restoring port road infrastructure and operational efficiency. This includes terminal clearing, rail line water draining and reopening, stormwater jetting and the repair of sea-walls.
 
We have been advised that the Transnet National Ports Authority has so far cleared more than 340 cubic meters of debris from the harbour.
 
With regards to port traffic, capacity has been restored and the port has handled more than 100 vessels since the 13th of April 2022 and tugs are all operating at full capacity.
 
Terminal operations are also back at full capacity, with vessel offloading, loading operations and truck deliveries operating optimally.
 
Efforts by Transnet to deal with rail infrastructure damage are also proceeding, although this is likely to take some time given the extent of the damage.
 
Transnet is also engaged in a consultation process with communities who will be impacted by the construction works, because there are a number of dwellings on the identified rail reserve that will need to be relocated.
 
Work underway to fix affected roads, especially strategic roads that ferry goods to the port, is also proceeding at a good pace with SANRAL as the implementing agency.
 
A number of road repair projects have been identified with an immediate focus on the N2 and N3 highways and the necessary systems are being put in place so those that are not delayed and that they proceed as quickly as possible.
 
At today’s meeting we have been given a progress update on the restoration of services, and on what is being done to restore water and electricity supply to all areas. It is also encouraging that the restoration of services is proceeding well and as quickly as possible.
 
 
Eskom has been assisting municipalities with fault detection and repairs and damage assessments. It has been providing relief in the Ugu district by removing water and sanitation pump stations from the load shedding schedule.
 
It is also encouraging that water restoration in most of the metro is near to full capacity, with the exception of the North region, which is a particular concern.
 
Significant work has been done to repair damaged water infrastructure such as waste water treatment works, pump-stations and reticulation.
 
The deployment of built environment professionals to conduct flood damage assessments and participate in the Joint Operating Committee has enabled us to have the necessary technical expertise put to service in the affected districts.
 
This progress notwithstanding, challenges remain that have a direct and serious impact on the provincial economy.
 
The interruptions to rail has impacted the delivery of exports to the port, with automotive and citrus produce particularly affected.
 
The short haul trucking solution to facilitate faster inward container movement is working well, but will put further pressure on traffic flows particularly around Bayhead Road.
 
Completing all the rail repair works that have been identified within the necessary timeframes will be critical.
 
We are encouraged that there are discussions underway with Toyota and the City of eThekwini on what measures are needed to restore the Toyota plant in Prospecton to full capacity, but also to address what is needed to secure resilience for the future.
 
A great many lessons have been learned from this natural disaster.
 
As government we must now prioritise the integration of climate change and its associated impacts into all government planning.
 
This includes climate proofing human settlements, building climate resilience in the agricultural sector and constructing climate resilient infrastructure.
 
Our collective state of readiness for natural disasters has to be drastically improved, and disaster risk assessments by all provinces have to be regular and ongoing.
 
This disaster proved to us that we are not as ready to deal with natural disasters.
 
There will now be a clear expectation that municipalities, provinces and departments should develop, update, review and submit their disaster management and contingency plans to the National Disaster Management Council.
 
Mechanisms to improve access to provincial and municipal disaster relief funding are being addressed.
 
Another issue also under discussion is the scope for provinces and municipalities to delegate certain disaster relief functions to well-capacitated institutions if they lack the capacity.
 
All organs of state have to develop practical risk-informed disaster management and continency plans that can be implemented at short notice.
 
This will be done through the ‘One District, One Plan’ process that underpins the District Development Model.
 
We are encouraged by the efforts of the eThekwini Metro around early warning systems, and to raise awareness in our communities about the impacts of climate change and the extreme weather associated with it.
 
Engagement with communities, especially around constructing dwellings in high-risk and flood prone areas, is critical if we are to prevent such great loss of life in future.
 
We have agreed in today’s meeting that our foremost priority now must be on helping the people of KwaZulu-Natal to rebuild their lives, and to assist business in the province to get its economic recovery programme back on track.
 
We welcome the efforts in this regard that are being driven by the KZN Growth Coalition, of which the Durban Chamber of Commerce forms part.
 
We have had discussions in today’s meeting on measures to provide financial support to both big and small businesses in distress.
 
It is critical that this support is mobilised as a matter of urgency to ensure that businesses can stay afloat and that jobs can be sustained.
 
When the flooding struck the affected provinces last month, there were dire predictions from many that we would slide further into an abyss.
 
But the province of KwaZulu-Natal, supported by a coordinated national disaster management effort, has shown its mettle.
 
We have made considerable progress, but there is far more that we need to do.
 
The toll on human life has been high, and we mourn all those who have died.
 
Our thoughts are with the many who have lost their homes and businesses, and they should be assured that every effort is being made to support them at this time.
 
This meeting has been a valuable platform to engage on the urgent priorities for business in the province to recover faster.
 
We will be taking up the many suggestions and proposals that have been made and move with urgency on them.
 
As I said earlier, the economy of KwaZulu-Natal must be recovered for there to be an inclusive national economic recovery.
 
In conclusion, I want to thank the KwaZulu-Natal business community for all the support they have lent to the humanitarian effort since the floods occurred.
 
There is a lot of work ahead, but I am confident that, working together, we will succeed.
 
It is through partnership and collaboration that we will be able to recover and rebuild in a manner than leaves no-one behind.
 
I thank you.