The Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry would like to express its sincere and heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the people who lost their lives as a result of the recent adverse weather conditions in KwaZulu-Natal, and our thoughts are with all those affected by these unfortunate events.

The recent adverse weather conditions have resulted in flooding in various parts of eThekwini and KwaZulu-Natal severely impacting our road network and infrastructure, with the M4 northern freeway between Umhlanga and Sibaya being closed for an unspecified period. The M4 represents crucial business infrastructure, providing a linkage between business and industries in the northern parts of eThekwini and KwaZulu-Natal. The loss of a part of this infrastructure for an unspecified period will have a significant impact on the operations and expenses of businesses who have to use alternative routes, which will add to the congestion and traffic in those alternate routes.

Additionally, there have been many reports that commercial and residential properties, as well as various critical infrastructure, were flooded due to the heavy rainfall during the week. Any amount of rainfall in eThekwini on Friday onwards could lead to further flooding, as the ground is completely saturated.

The resultant damage to property and loss of productivity, mainly due to ageing and inadequately maintained infrastructure, is disastrous and unsustainable and will have a cascading negative effect on economic activity as we approach the festive season. There needs to be a serious review of stormwater drainage systems especially related to our local and provincial road networks to ensure that rainwater can be easily drained away.

The magnitude and the frequency of these storms are proving to be a massive risk to the growth and development of the local economy especially in an already constrained economic environment with a major challenge being the inability to transport and deliver goods and services to various destinations due to flooding and traffic congestion.

This translates into reduced turnaround times and inefficiencies that amount to significant losses for businesses. Over and above this, small businesses may not have adequate insurance to recover their losses, hence, jeopardising their existence and sustainability going forward. If these losses are not recovered, over time the local economy can suffer significantly.

The Durban Chamber urges the local and provincial government to urgently share its disaster management plan with all stakeholders and enact steps to reduce the dangers and potential damage of the heavy rainfall to minimise the socio-economic risks. As a port city, eThekwini is heavily reliant on the logistics sector and our road infrastructure, and government needs to communicate and immediately action its plan for infrastructure maintenance and development that will improve drainage and traffic congestion issues.

The Durban Chamber encourages members and the business community to ensure it has risk management and contingency plans in place in order to circumvent any losses, especially as it relates to ensuring the safety of their employees.