Geographical patterns and disasters management : case study of Alexandra Township
Mere, Oniccah Monimang
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The focus of the study is to explore Geographic patterns and Disasters Management in the context of Alexandra Township situated in the Johannesburg Metro. The research evaluates if the Disaster Management Unit in Johannesburg municipality is prepared in terms of policies, community campaigns on flood disasters as well as forming organizations that will assist in times of disaster. It also refers to other South African townships with regard to where most affected townships are located, how the community is affected and how the local government responds. Disaster management infers preparedness for disaster; therefore, measures of preparation from the local government need to be in place to reduce extreme losses, pro-active policies should be in place to guide officials on how to manage disasters affecting their areas. The South African local government as the third sphere of government is closest to the people and mostly responsible for the community’s wellbeing. It is for this reason that local governments should have a strategy on how to deal with disaster. Having experienced natural disaster incidents, most countries in the world have been compelled to develop legislations, disaster management and mitigation plans that guide them on how to prevent and respond to disasters. In view of a several unimagined disaster incidents in South Africa, the researcher maintains that the concept and practice of disaster management is rather new in South Africa, and many local governments do not have well-informed strategies to manage natural disasters. Unlimited rain caused by climate change, the position of residence and overpopulation can be major attributes to disasters hazards. Floods can easily flow into residential dwellings and destroy the property, not only that, but it can also result in the loss of lives and enhance the spread of diseases. It becomes more of tragedy as most people living in these areas are poor and have all their belongings in the same place which makes them even more vulnerable to disaster. The location of Stjwetla settlement along the Alexandra Township riverbanks becomes relevant at this point in case. The residents of Stjwetla are exposed to flood threats, they are very much aware of the risk associated with the low-lying geographical patterns, overpopulation and the riverbanks. However, they still occupy the disaster prone sites because they cannot afford elsewhere. Stjwetla is an illegal settlement where no one pays rent; there is a serious lack of basic municipal services such as water and electricity in the area. The residents claim to have arrived in this area simply because Johannesburg seems to offer informal job opportunities; therefore, they anticipate good opportunities in terms of employment. Most of them are from Limpopo province and have more than twenty years residing in Stjwetla, and are still unemployed. The community has formed rescue groups that help in times of regular disasters such as floods and fire. The rescue groups also mediate between the community and the northern Johannesburg municipal Disaster and Emergency Unit. The Disaster and Emergency Unit have formed good relations with the community leaders for support and emergency response. Other organizations, for instance Red Cross Society make regular input, by offering food and clothes to the people affected. Red Cross Society and other organizations work together with the local government to help Stjwetla residents deal better with disaster effects. However, the residents feel that other government departments, such as social development, health and housing must assist as well. Residents are of an idea that the disaster management unit alone cannot conquer the disaster risk in Stjwetla but social development should help with psychological therapy while health department should intervene to reduce long-term effects of injuries.