By Tarren-Lee Habelgaarn


The floods that hit parts of KwaZulu-Natal on 11 and 12 April have been described as one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the country and claimed the lives of more than 440 people, leaving 40 000 people displaced, with more than 12 000 homes, 600 schools and hundreds of businesses destroyed. 

It has been a trying time for businesses who have already been struggling to keep their doors open following the impact of COVID-19 and loadshedding, but one thing disasters have always highlighted is the resilience and strength of South Africans and our business sector. 

One person praised for going beyond to help others bounce back after devastation is Gift of the Givers founder, Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman. 

Following the recent flooding and rains in KwaZulu-Natal, Sooliman and his team have been on the ground helping flood-stricken areas to rebuild. 

Whether it be locally or internationally, the organisation always finds a way to help get economies up and running to ensure that people have something to return to once the disaster has passed. Their response to disasters vary and depend on prevailing conditions in the identified disaster or war zones. 

While their focus is humanitarian relief, this is vital to ensuring that people are safe and able to return to work, school and economic activity as soon as possible after a natural disaster has hit. Their immediate relief includes temporary shelter, bedding and blankets, basic food provisions and generators for emergency power supply. They also undertake to assist with the rebuilding of infrastructure, such as homes, schools and medical facilities during crises. 

While this may not speak directly to business needs, these play a vital role in assisting communities to ensure that people are ready to return to work as soon as possible. 

To assist with the initial need, Gift of the Givers have provided hot meals, blankets, bottled water, warm clothes, sanitary pads and diapers and will also now be looking to assist with building material and costs to help repair schools and medical facilities.

They have always been very clear on the stance that roads, bridges, drainage and public infrastructure are the government’s responsibility, though they will consider schools and health infrastructure. While they assist, they also believe that private homes and businesses should be covered by insurance. This is a difficult situation as many businesses in KwaZulu-Natal don’t even qualify for insurance due to the risk of floods and are now having to scramble to rebuild. 

But, luckily another gift Dr. Sooliman and his team have is getting people to care and come together. They also find a way to help businesses identify opportunities and ways in which they can assist. 

Disasters, while never welcomed, can present opportunities that might not have been there before and while recently addressing the nation on this matter, His Excellency, Cyril Ramaphosa said extensive work is underway to restore basic services such as water, electricity, sanitation and waste removal. 

“These efforts are being hampered by damage to main supply systems and the inaccessibility of some areas. To ensure an effective response to these tragic events, the National Disaster Management Centre last week classified the flooding as a provincial disaster,” said President Ramaphosa. 

Learning from the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are drawing together various stakeholders to be part of an oversight structure to ensure all funds disbursed to respond to this disaster are properly accounted for and that the state receives value for money. The Department of Small Business Development is mobilising funds to assist small businesses that have been affected by the floods. The Minister of Finance has said that R1-billion is immediately available, and will be approaching Parliament for the appropriation of additional resources.”

eThekwini Municipality Mayor, Honourable Mxolisi Kaunda, highlighted the preliminary estimates of the more than R700-million in operational losses – excluding the cost to repair damaged infrastructure and properties. 

“The economic impact of these floods has been severe as many industries had to cease operations. Preliminary estimates indicate that the loss to the eThekwini GDP since 14 April 2022 is R737m,” Kaunda said.

While an event like this has a devastating impact on the economy, there will be a lot of opportunities to assist with rebuilding and positioning your business to grow and influence sectors. Perhaps you might even use this to reposition your place in the market.