Photo: Heavy rains caused flooding on Johannesburg roads on December 9 morning. Credit: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times - Photo: 2022

South Africans Caught in Destructive Flash Floods Decry Climate Inaction

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | JOHANNESBURG (IDN) — Torrential rainfall and flooding came full throttle to Johannesburg for a third time in December, damaging hundreds of houses in Soweto, Roodepoort, Protea Glen and surrounding areas.

The heavy downpour loosened street poles, flooded transformer chambers, uprooted trees and damaged overhead cables and electricity infrastructure. Winnie Mandela’s home was also reportedly damaged in the downpour.

“We have been experiencing continuous rainfalls for the previous week and this week as well. That is why we are advising people to be on high alert and avoid low-lying areas,” said a spokesperson for the Johannesburg Metro Police Department, Xolani Fihla.

But it was a redundant message for resident Zanele Mkhize who says they have been experiencing similar floods since 2018.

“We have lost all our belongings—the children’s uniform, our furniture is completely destroyed. All we are asking for is a suitable piece of land. It doesn’t even have to be houses. If it can just get be land at least. We want a safer place than this. Every time when it rains like this, we face a similar situation and we do not have jobs,” he said.

At the informal settlement of Snake Park in Soweto, locals told South Africa’s Eyewitness News that they had nowhere to sleep after their homes were flooded.

The situation was worsened, they said, by residues of sludge coming from an abandoned mine into their homes.

A local activist Tiny Dlamini spoke to a reporter: “The rain has made the situation that was worse, worser, because this is worse. I’m always calling this a silent killer.”

One of the hardest hit places was Protea South with over a thousand families affected. Residents speaking with a local news outlet told of rescuing neighbours after calls to local officials handling rescue went unanswered. In Kliptown, a resident said he had not slept since the early hours of this morning as he feared that his mother could be swept away.

“Just there by the riverbank, that’s where my mother’s shack is located. Let me not even talk about children falling into the water. Even an adult person will never survive this. I’m just grateful no one died,” he adds.

But contradictions abound in Africa’s most industrialized nation and the world’s 7th largest coal producer as it faces ever more destructive climate challenges.

As a consequence, a group of climate change organizations filed criminal complaints against South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and a number of prominent cabinet ministers, accusing the government officials of “unlawful negligence” by failing to take “practical action to address the climate crisis.”

The Climate Justice Charter Movement (CJCM) wants the government to be found guilty of “culpable homicide” for its acts of omission to “prevent further emissions and to protect the vulnerable from increased inequality and poverty.”

When visiting the disaster-struck areas around the city of Durban, South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, expressed the obvious: “We no longer can postpone what we need to do – we must deal with climate change.” [IDN-InDepthNews — 11 December 2022]

Photo: Heavy rains caused flooding on Johannesburg roads on December 9 morning. Credit: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

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