KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Sihle Zikalala, has written to the national government to waiver toll fees on major transport routes, including the N2 economic corridor, to cushion the financial burden on citizens.
This comes as most roads in the province have been severely damaged or washed away by recent floods.
Zikalala said road users are finding it unaffordable to pay toll fees to use the only alternative route, which is the N2 at uThongathi Toll Plaza and Umvoti Toll Plaza.
Zikalala was speaking during the provincial Day of Prayer held at the Durban Exhibition Centre on Thursday.
The Premier joined interfaith religious leaders in prayer and led the candle lighting ceremony in memory of all victims who lost their lives in the floods disasters, and to show solidarity with the affected families.
Zikalala noted that the public transport industry operating in these areas service the travel needs of a large number of residents from numerous communities, particularly in areas along the R102 on route to industries.
He said the industry is under pressure to bear the excessive costs of toll fees in addition to facing longer trips.
“These costs are bound to be passed on to commuters through higher taxi fares. The trucking industry is also facing added demands as a result of post-disaster recovery efforts throughout KwaZulu-Natal.
“The absence on non-levied routes presents a threat to the industry’s dwindling profit margins and poor turnaround times due to excessive traffic and resultant delays.”
Zikalala said all 10 districts, including the eThekwini Metro, were affected, and the worst affected municipalities are eThekwini, Ugu, King Cetshwayo, ILembe, and uMgungundlovu.
KwaZulu-Natal currently has 52 shelters that are providing temporary shelter to the victims of the disaster in most of the affected municipalities.
Zikalala said that out of all the confirmed fatalities by South African Police Services, more than 200 deceased have been profiled. At a media briefing on Thursday, Police Minister Bheki Cele announced that the number of deaths caused by the floods has been revised down to 435 from 448 fatalities. This after post mortems determined that 13 other deaths were not as a result of the natural disaster.
The Premier said the Department of Social Development, South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) are finalising profiling, provision of psychosocial services, and provision of food vouchers.
“We have learned that some families have already buried their loved ones and extend our heartfelt condolences all families who are mourning the loss of their loved ones,” said the Premier.
The Premier said the provincial government appreciates the help towards burial costs from the Motsepe Foundation and AVBOB.
“As part of the R30 million donation to the disaster, the Motsepe Foundation will cover all funerals. This amount will be paid through a funeral parlour that would have been identified by each family.
“AVBOB has put aside R3 million towards burial cost, a contribution of R20 000.00 per family. The services will be done by AVBOB,” Zikalala explained.
Zikalala warned that climate change affects nearly every aspect of live, and global warming is caused largely by human activities.
He emphasised that this is a time to mobilise all South Africans to be an enemy of pollution and environmental harm.
“It is a time that we all work together to fight the challenges of poverty, unemployment, and inequality which make the poorest of the poor more vulnerable to the devastating effects of climate change.
“We also make an impassioned appeal to the people of KwaZulu-Natal to avoid building their homes near riverbanks on areas unsafe for human settlements.”
Meanwhile, the Premier has issued a stern warning to anyone attempting to profit from a disaster that has claimed lives and left families devastated, adding that the Auditor-General’s office will work closely with departments to keep a close eye on the utilisation of the resources.
He said the National Prosecuting Authority, SA Revenue Service, the Hawks and Special Investigating Unit are stand ready to investigate and prosecute the crime of corruption.
“Attempting to profit from a disaster that has claimed lives and left families devastated is unforgivable. In the spirit of our nation’s new consciousness and sense of accountability, let us ensure we put the people of KwaZulu-Natal first. We will not allow public funds meant to help families to vanish down a black hole of corruption,” Zikalala warned.