Inside EWN Roundtable: How is SA dealing with extreme weather events?

A panel of experts and officials discuss how the country is responding to harsh weather conditions amidst climate change.

A farm bridge that earlier provided access to the town of Citrusdal in the Western Cape has been closed again, on 20 June 2023. Picture: Kevin Brandt/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - In recent years, South Africa has experience tough weather conditions from the Western Cape drought in 2017, the KwaZulu-Natal floods in 2022 and latest floods in Western Cape’s Citrusdal where adverse weather conditions and heavy rains resulted in severe flooding, cutting off access routes to the town and some adjacent farms, leaving many residents isolated, displaced and some trapped without food and supplies.

These have highlighted that South Africa is not exempt from the world climate change crisis and that the cost to the economy as repairs don’t come cheap.

With more rain forecast for the Western Cape this week, provincial minister of local government, Anton Bredell, indicated that plans and preparations were well in place for any circumstances relating to weather.

“Since we expect more rain, we’ve been keeping a very close eye on it and we're fortunate because we run a world-class disaster management centre, so they've got systems where they get notified ahead of time so we can plot if the weather service tells us that 40 millimetres of rain is set to come in the area, we understand which areas will flood, so we will move in and ask people to evacuate and protect our infrastructure as far as possible although it remains difficult.”

eThekwini City manager Musa Mbhele, who was also part of the discussion, reencountered the devastation of the KZN floods that swept most parts of the province in 2022, but also highlighted that what makes it even worse are the scientific predictions that the province should ready themselves for more natural disasters should the global warming increase by 1.5 degrees.

"The prediction by scientists is very scary because if we are to experience anything greater than that really. It's a worrisome picture which means that in local government space, we need to think quite critically and be able to redirect our resources to a state of readiness and our ability to adapt to such situations."

As education around climate change and global warming finds its way in decision-making spaces, assistant manager, Charlotte McBride, said that South Africa had great climate change researchers and were on top of things.

“South Africa’s meteorologists have no boundaries, we also belong to the World Meteorological Organisation and so our experts get to interact on the global stage with experts from all around the world and it's a case of people sharing their knowledge. We also have really great scientists and experts focusing on a lot of research work in the various aspects. Where I work, we're scientists working on trends like what is the trends in terms of rainfall and in temperatures.”

She also added that the South African Weather Service plays an important role of assisting the neighbouring countries in the scenic regions to forecast these types of events.

Listen to the full conversation below.