Gauteng floods leave the poor in misery

President Zuma visited Stjwetla community. Photo: Ramatamo wa Matamong.

It will take a long time for the poor to recover from storms that have wrecked homes, especially those in informal settlements like Stjwetla situated on the edge of the Juskei river in Alexandra.
A week of floods as a result of torrential rain in some parts of Gauteng has left many people devastated. Cars and houses were damaged. Above all, eight people lost their lives. While others are saying this is an act of God, others are blaming poor storm water drainage as the cause of the damage. Affected regions were Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni.

Alexandra, Gauteng, South Africa

Government says at least 4,900 people have been affected by the floods in the province.

Dumisane Ngema of Alexandra Township spent the whole day on Monday taking water out of his house. He says this happens every year and leaves him with damaged furniture.

“My house is next to the river. Every year when there are storms, I pray to God that the water doesn’t get into my house. But on Monday I saw my house flooded in front of my eyes. There was nothing, I could do,” he says with a heavy heart.

‘Building rubble dams the river’

Stjwetla community members looking for their belongings that were not destroyed by the floods. Photo: Ramatamo wa Matamong.

According to Ngema, the water in the river no longer flows in one direction as it was damaged by constructors more than five years ago when they built RDP houses nearby.

“They flattened the river when they threw construction rubble inside it. Now this has affected me badly. There is a drainage system on the street, but is not big enough to accommodate river water during heavy rains.”

“When I complained to authorities, they say that part of the river is on private land but temporarily they might do something. So far they haven’t done anything.”

One of the City’s Councillors, Werner Smith, says the problem with Alexandra is that the current drainage system was not designed for the number of people living in Alexandra right now.

“That’s why when there are floods, drains get bottlenecks. The whole Alexandra needs to be developed,” he says.

Anikie Mathebula, another victim of the floods was shocked when she could not find her bakkie where she parked it. She said strong water swept it and dumped it 100 metres away in a heap of muddied water. She fears permanent damage to her car.

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“I wonder if it will start and be able to work like before. I use this car for work,” she said as a group of men helped her take it out of the mud.

Submerged on the highway

Motorists were seen submerged with their cars on the highways near Linksfield and Edenvale in Ekurhuleni. Mayoral Spokesperson, Zweli Dlamini, warned motorists of driving in heavy rain.

“These are vulnerable areas together with people living in low lying areas. We urge motorists to avoid them at all costs,” he said.

Will people be compensated for loss and damage of goods and properties? “No, we expect that they have insured their properties. As the government, we can fix the infrastructure, restore electricity and water as well as providing relief such as shelter, food and blankets.

“We need to find ways of raising the money. There are lots of people coming to Johannesburg and looking at our books; we can only spend R10-billion for infrastructure,” says Executive Mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba.

Eight people have been killed due to the floods with one minor still missing.

Meanwhile the country’s president, Jacob Zuma joined his counterparts in government in showing their sympathy to the victims of the flood waters. Accompanied by Corporate Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Desmond van Rooyen, and the Gauteng Premier David Makhura, the president visited Alexandra Township and its informal settlement, Stjwetla where shacks on the banks of the Juskei River were swept away by the floods.

He assured them of the full support of government and promised them temporary shelters while a long term solution for their predicament is being sought.

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“We’ll ensure that we fix the flow of the river because every rainy season it causes harm to the people,” he said and warned residents not to build shacks on the river banks again.

He also visited the family of a missing 3-year old girl, Everlate Chauke, who fell from a tree which her parents climbed trying to escape from the torrent. While search parties are still looking for her, Zuma told them that the government will assist them in their time of sorrow.

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About Ramatamo wa Matamong 15 Articles
Also known by his pen name as Ramatamo Wa Matamong, born in the Free State Province, he is an award winning community journalist in the Alexandra township who has covered numerous and extensive topical issues in the township ranging from sports, politics, arts, service delivery protests, strikes, health and economics.