With only around R2bn promised so far for flood relief in KwaZulu-Natal, there’s going to be slim pickings for the usual crop of hyaenas who usually gather to strip South Africa of critical aid when the country needs it most – for now.
Many South Africans are still fuming over the estimated R7.8bn in Covid-19 corruption uncovered by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), and the R50bn estimated to have been stolen during state capture.
However, said the KZN Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, provincial and national government were “on guard against the illegal diversion of state resources meant for the vulnerable and destitute in KZN”.
“As we set out to mobilise resources to support the people of KZN we will put in place several measures to safeguard these funds,” said KZN Cogta MEC Sipho Hlomuka.
“The Auditor-General’s office will work closely with departments to keep a close eye on the utilisation of the resources.”
He also said the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation will monitor both the financial and the non-financial performance of the interventions while the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), SA Revenue Service (Sars), the Hawks and SIU have been strengthened to investigate and prosecute corruption.
Except, the amount of money being made available to disaster relief is growing.
Hlomuka said on Sunday the National Housing Finance Corporation SOC Ltd would contribute R152 million while the Department of Water and Sanitation has reprioritised R45 million to provide 80 freshwater tankers.
He also stated the South African Social Services Agency (Sassa) has increased its cash benefit from R700 to R1,980 for the disaster cases only where there has been a loss of all the belongings.
“Where there is a loss of life, this amount is doubled to the family being assisted,” Hlomuka said.
“The value of a normal food voucher has also increased from R700 to R1,200 as of 13 April.”
Human Settlements minister Mmamoloko Kubayi has also promised about R143m for disaster relief and temporary shelter to those whose homes were destroyed, while Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana says at least R1bn worth of emergency relief funds will be sent to KwaZulu-Natal by Tuesday.
Many will remember the price gouging which occurred regarding personal protective equipment where the Competition Commission received more than 1,000 complaints, including Dischem and Babelegi Workwear.
On the private sector front, National Liquor Traders has committed R2m to support liquor traders in the form of food parcels, credit allowances for restocking and rebuilding.
Wearing his philanthropist hat, Patrice Motsepe with his Motsepe Foundation has pledged R30 million to flood victims and appointed a committee of faith-based organisations and government to disburse the money as efficiently as possible.
“As South Africans rally behind relief efforts to assist the flood victims of KwaZulu-Natal, we call on authorities planning the post-flood reconstruction programmes not to repeat past instances of the misappropriation of public funds as was the case during Covid-19 pandemic,” said Ahmed Kathrada Foundation executive director Neeshan Balton.
“During that crisis, public resources were stolen under the guise of emergency procurement processes and not used for the intended purposes. Prices were inflated and public funds were not used in a prudent manner,” Balton said.
“Consequently, public trust in government plummeted to record low levels.”
And while government’s appeal for donations was met with acrimony, political analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga said given how it had handled corruption, it was no surprise people were slamming government.
Mathekga said the problem came when people had to choose between non-governmental organisations and government.
“Government has serious legitimacy and credibility issues,” Mathekga said.
“The problem is its ability to use funds well, most of the time you will see action coming from civil society almost acting in the space where government should be.”
Mathekga noted before the Covid pandemic, it was government which controlled everything in terms of disaster relief and said it didn’t make much space for civil society to become involved.
“[Once Covid arrived], it became clear after a couple of weeks it was not able to fill some of the demands and civil society started stepping in,” he said.
“Government always overstates its capacity, and it needs civil society to help.”