In April’s catastrophic floods that ravaged KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, 87 individuals vanished and have not been found.
Some grieving families who have given up hope of ever seeing their loved ones again want closure and have consented to government suggestions that they be deemed legally dead.
The Department of Justice and Correctional Services are working to declare a presumption of death in some cases, according to KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala, even as the search for those who have vanished continues.
He said this process would only be used as a last resort to assist the families to find closure, when it is beyond reasonable doubt that “we have no prospects to find the missing persons alive”.
The 43-year-old Slindile Mldlalose and her kids Thobeka, Manelisi, Khule, and Mondli were sleeping when the floods swept through their home and carried them downstream the uMzinyathi River.
Subsequently, the uMzinyathi River’s sand was where the body of Slindile and three of the kids were found. While they await results from DNA testing that will establish their identities, their family has been unable to bury them. Despite everyone’s certainty, they are still officially missing and unaccounted for.
Unrecoverable remains of Slindile’s child As Slindile’s brother, Thokozani Mdlalose, stated, “It’s been months since our loved ones were lost in the floods, so we agree with the idea to pronounce the five dead.”
Thokozani has received no assurance that their identities will ever be revealed. Therefore he would rather bury them now than wait.
The identities of 23 bodies, including the four Mdlalose family members, have not yet been determined.
The floods affected over 85,000 people, leaving thousands of people without homes in five districts and the eThekwini Municipality. There have been 461 fatalities.
The R1 billion emergency fund that President Cyril Ramaphosa established during the floods has still not been made available to help the affected. The National Treasury had earlier charged the KZN government with failing to submit the required paperwork for the cash, which resulted in the delay.