Speeches

Keynote Address at the First Annual Western Cape Post-Event Analysis Seminar

18 March 2012

It gives me great pleasure in welcoming the mayoral committee member for safety and security of the City of Cape Town,
The heads of the provincial departments of local government and agriculture,
The head of the Provincial Disaster Management Centre (PDMC),
The heads of the municipal disaster management centres,
Representatives from both national and provincial departments,
Municipal officials,
Representatives from the emergency services,
State-owned enterprises,
International relief agencies,
Representatives from the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the province,
Postgraduate students,
Other officials and the media attending this our first Post-Event Analysis seminar here today,

The Western Cape is regarded as one of the most disaster-prone provinces in South Africa and, since 2003, 11 disasters have been declared of which the National Disaster Management Centre classified eight as disasters. These disasters included mostly flooding events as well as hail, drought and the displacement of foreign nationals due to social conflict.

It is an absolute honour and privilege for us to take this opportunity of saluting the PDMC and its stakeholders in their efforts to prepare and respond to and recover from major incidents and/or disasters in the Western Cape.

In this regard, I would also like to congratulate the Department of Local Government who, through the PDMC and other stakeholders, has managed this very successfully over the past few years.

Today's seminar symbolises the diligent effort and excellent work done by the Western Cape Disaster Management Centre.

This seminar will focus on providing a consolidated summary of major Western Cape disaster events that have occurred between 2003 and 2011.

Events like this, as well as future post-event analysis studies, will enable a wide range of practitioners, both within and beyond the Western Cape, to access post-disaster event analyses and associated data for mitigation risk reduction planning and disaster preparedness purposes.

Post-event analysis studies conducted by the PDMC in the past focused on the province's changing risk profile - with specific emphasis on severe weather events from 2003 to 2011 and the consequences linked to future climate variability and change, adaptation, the changing urban risk profile and, finally, a detailed reflection on people who were internally displaced since 2008.

These studies highlight detailed analyses of the economic losses reported during disaster events.

In the Western Cape, from 2003 to 2008, national departments and parastatals sustained direct damage with losses exceeding R221 million in eight severe weather events.

During the same period, eight provincial departments reported direct damage costs of R1.8 billion for these storms and associated floods.

Damage costs attributed to agriculture over the eight severe weather events exceeded R1 billion and represented approximately 58% of losses reported by provincial departments.

Damage costs reported by local and district municipalities for the same events totalled R513 million.

Governmentally funded disaster assistance for the drought-affected areas in the Eden and Central Karoo areas was estimated at R272 million.

It is said that with adversity comes innovation and, with some twist of fate, disasters has been the catalyst for many pioneering projects being launched.

During the management and coordination of the prolonged drought (2009 - 2011) in Central Karoo and Eden, stakeholders were required to implement new and innovative ways of safeguarding water security and water demand management.

Also, it became apparent that the scarcity of water should be emphasised to the broader public through adequate awareness programs.

To fix water leaks might sound insignificant but this played a huge role in saving water.

Words like conjunctive (water) use were bandied about. Amazingly, municipalities, provincial and national departments all rose to the challenge.

The drought disaster opened a new world to this province as municipalities implemented various projects such as desalination, exploration of boreholes and re-use of water.

The Eden District is currently the leading region in the country in that Mossel Bay, Knysna and Bitou all have desalination plants. At the same time, both George and Beaufort West are extremely proud of their highly successful re-use water projects.

Another key success worth mentioning is the fact that through the PDMC's coordination and management of the drought, Petro SA remained operational during a water scarcity crisis, still delivering fuel for 2010.

The Provincial Disaster Management Centre has also greatly improved its modus operandi when it comes to the verification of damages and losses incurred during these incidents.

The PDMC, together with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (National Disaster Management Centre), Human Settlements, Local Government (MIG and Disaster Management) and Environmental Affairs, facilitated a verification and validation exercise from 11 to 14 June 2011 with all affected municipalities in the Eden District. This improved process ensured validity of losses, damages and further prevented unnecessary disaster declarations.

This seminar and post-event analysis studies conducted are an excellent example of pioneering work undertaken by the disaster management fraternity and it sets the trend for enhancing all aspects of proactive disaster response and recovery as well as related management initiatives in order to work better together in South Africa.

As the minister responsible for disaster management, I am extremely proud of the work done by my disaster management centres and all the relevant stakeholders.

I would also like to thank all of you here today for your outstanding contributions and support towards effective and efficient disaster management in this province.

Thank you.