PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa says government is firmly committed to giving the business community in KwaZulu-Natal all the necessary support, resources and technical capacity to recover from the recent “catastrophic” floods.
Ramaphosa was speaking at an engagement meeting with the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Worldwide Conference Centre, Durban.
“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,” said Ramaphosa.
“Declaring the floods as a national state of disaster has enabled us to mobilise more resources, capabilities and technical expertise within the necessary 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.”
He said the government was 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,” said Ramaphosa.
“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.”
He added that the government welcomed 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,” he said.
“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.”
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, said Ramaphosa.
He added that Transnet was 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,” said Ramaphosa.
“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.”