The City of Cape Town says its ability to provide a humanitarian response to flooding and fire disasters is being hampered by National Government rules that governs this funding.
The Metro says until 2021, it was able to issue emergency fire and flooding kits to residents without first having to apply for disaster funding.
But MMC for Human Settlements Carl Pophaim says this was stopped, and relief funding has fallen away.
Pophaim says for the City to respond more effectively to the provision of fire- and flood relief, they need to get access to funding to assist verified victims of fires with safe building kits, like they used to, within 24 to 48 hours, when the Metro managed relief provision.
The current nationally and ministerially-led process does not work for most of our fire-affected residents. I’ve formally written to the National Minister of Human Settlements to request that disaster relief funding be decentralised and transferred to clean, competent and well-governed municipalities, such as the City of Cape Town. This comes in the wake of devastating fires again this week, and our expectations for the windy and dry months ahead.
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Pophaim says in addition to having to apply for disaster funding, the approximately R35 million relief funding which the City had been able to budget per year, also fell away.
Annually, Cape Town typically experiences fires that could destroy approximately 6 200 structures with a cost of about R44m per year, outside of formal declared disasters.
Accessing national disaster funding is typically a lengthy process, often leaving victims without assistance for extended periods. Currently, national disaster funding for fires- and floods sits in the National Ministry. The National Department of Human Settlements centralised the Housing Grant, responding to declared disasters at its discretion. In essence, it means that for every application the City submits, a national team needs to be dispatched to Cape Town, assess and then travel back north and the City then awaits the decision. Previously, with the City’s issuing of fire kits, help could be afforded within 24- to 48 hours, depending on the intricacies of a situation.
The City’s past enhanced fire kits came with doors and windows, walls and roofs coated with fire retardant products.
Pophaim says direct access to disaster funding is vital for emergency response and mitigation, especially given the national budget cuts to housing grants amounting to more than R100 million amid a rapidly growing demand for housing and growing informality.
The City is also calling on National Government to look at grant funding to assist provincial governments and municipalities with this mounting task of rapid emergency assistance.
Our hands and feet have been cut off and we need to help the most vulnerable residents as fast as possible. We know how to do it and we are ready to do it. We ask for the grant funding to be made available so that we can again provide the assistance that is required in the context that we are operating in. We know our situation on the ground better than other authorities and we are absolutely committed to our residents.
Over the past financial year, the City’s Human Settlements Directorate says it spent 99,3% of its more than R880 million capital budget in the 2022/23 financial year.
Some R2,5 billion capital budget has been allocated for human settlements projects over the next three years.