DISPLACED BUT NOT DEFEATED: TONGAAT’S STRUGGLE IN THE WAKE OF TORNADO DEVASTATION

“I just want to get back to my normal routine, to hustle and provide for my children. I only wish the government could fast-track the process of housing so we can move forward with our lives. I have food, clothes, and essentials donated to us, but what we need most is shelter for me and my children. With schools closing soon, I fear spending every moment here without a proper roof over our heads. School was their refuge, now... reality sets in," Winnie shared.
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By Precious Mupenzi

  • Tongaat, KwaZulu-Natal, grapples with the aftermath of a recent tornado and heavy rainfall, leaving Emagwaveni area scarred and its residents displaced.
  • Winnie Cele, a single mother among over 2000 displaced individuals, shares her struggle for stable shelter amid government and NGO aid efforts.
  • Despite support from agencies like SASSA, Winnie’s plea highlights the urgency for expedited housing solutions as the community faces uncertainty and trauma post-disaster.

As the sun began to rise, casting a golden glow over the bustling streets filled with commuters and schoolchildren, the morning seemed like any other in Tongaat, KwaZulu-Natal. However, normality shattered upon reaching Emagwaveni, an area still scarred by a recent tornado and heavy rainfall.

Amid recovery efforts, tents stood as temporary shelters for those displaced by the storm. Here, the DSD News Team encountered Winnie Cele, her weary eyes reflecting the tiredness of sleepless nights and uncertain days. Winnie’s first meal of the day, a bowl of porridge shared with her youngest son, had become their morning routine since relocating to a tent in the tornado’s aftermath.

“With all the support we have been receiving from both government and non-government organisations, we are truly grateful,” Winnie remarked with a grateful smile. However, her biggest concern was having stable shelter for her family.

“I just want to get back to my normal routine, to hustle and provide for my children. I only wish the government could fast-track the process of housing so we can move forward with our lives. I have food, clothes, and essentials donated to us, but what we need most is shelter for me and my children. With schools closing soon, I fear spending every moment here without a proper roof over our heads. School was their refuge, now… reality sets in,” Winnie shared.

The memories of that fateful day lingered in the minds of survivors like a haunting specter. For Winnie, a 34-year-old mother of four, the trauma was still raw.

“It happened so fast, a dark-swirling cloud appeared before us, and in an instant, our world was torn apart. Roof, trees, electricity poles—all demolished by the tornado’s fury. It was a nightmare we could not wake from. I thank the heavens my children survived, but the loss of our sister-in-law… it is a pain we cannot bear,” she recounted.

A single mother, whose resilience echoed through her words, explained that she relied on the child support grant to make ends meet.

“The social relief distress grant (SRD) of R350 is not stable. Some months I receive it, but others, I do not. My main source of income now is the child support grant for my three children. Unfortunately, my fourth child is now above 18 years old, so we don’t receive support for him anymore,” she explained.

Winnie was one of over 2000 individuals who found themselves displaced from their homes. The destruction left approximately 3400 houses damaged and close to 2200 people without shelter.

Government agencies, alongside non-governmental organisations such as the Red Cross and Gift of the Givers, swiftly mobilised to offer aid to those affected. The Department of Social Development, through its agency South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), has been at the forefront of relief efforts. Since 05 June, SASSA has provided daily hot meals, distributed food vouchers worth R2180, and offered essential items like mattresses, blankets, and school uniforms.

Additionally, SASSA has extended support to beneficiaries who lost their grant cards by assisting with registration and application processes.

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