Floods of 2000, part 5: Victims flooded with support and donations

MBOMBELA – Mr Peter Jaehne has owned the Khandizwe Lodge in Malalane for the past 23 years, and was among those affected during that time.

“The last two metres that the river levels had risen was like a wave. My entire place was flooded. My neighbours were kind enough to help, and had taken what they could to higher ground,” Jaehne said.

He went on to describe the aftermath. “When the water is gone, there is just sand and dirt everywhere. You would think it is just water, and things can always be dried after, but it’s the sand that does the real damage.”

Emmies Bakery rented a helicopter to deliver bread to the people stranded in KaBokweni. Pick n Pay Nelspruit used the branch itself as a gathering point for donations. Lowvelder reported that Boxer Super Store made a donation of groceries worth R7 800 towards flood victims, and Emnotweni Casino donated R20 000 towards a fund for those in need. This was opened by the former mayor of Mbombela, Mr Isaiah Khoza.

“Where there is a dire need in our proximity, we will react. That is what we do,” said Ms Nicolette Botha, marketing manager of Emotweni. They also donated R1 000 towards tinned food at Riverside Mall and the Lowvelder relief drive.

Red Cross received donations from Boxer Super Store, PEP, SPAR and many others. Donations and volunteers from all over helped Red Cross in its mission to provide relief and to clean up after the flood.

“The floods truly devastated the communities that cut off access to main roads, electricity power outs happened and homes were destroyed due to the power of water. Many of our direct shoppers were affected due to this and Boxer had to invest in providing much needed relief. The foodstuffs donated meant that families who had close to lost everything were provided with much needed sustenance,” marketing director at Boxer, Mr Andrew Mills said.

“That is the type of business we are, we serve our shoppers, not only in our stores but at their homes and in their communities. Boxer has stepped in many times to assist when unforeseen incidents take place,this is just another example of this fact,” he added.

Ms Jana van Zyl was part of the Red Cross in Mbombela at the time.

“The generosity of both private individuals and businesses enabled us to make 13 500 food parcels. Each hamper contained enough food to feed a family of five for two days,” she stated.

Sappi donated food, baby food and building materials to the value of R80 000, and delivered it for the Department of Social Services to distribute. Clover SA gave around R100 000’s worth of long-life dairy products, with 20 000 litres of milk being transported to Mbombela and distributed. Then doctor, now Prof Elain Vlok, head of corporate services, stated, “We saw the need, we could not possibly turn a blind eye. We operate in that area, and the disaster affected so many people. We had to do something.”

The nutritional value of two litres of milk is such that it could sustain an average person for at least two days. Taken with maize meal or porridge, it could sustain a person for even longer.

“I gave some custard to the children. They consumed it as quickly as they could. It seemed like the first feeding they had in days,” Vlok said.

When Rev Carl Louwrens, from the NG Kerk in the Kruger National Park, was prompted for comment, he responded, “How much time and tissues do you have?”

The church had supported most of the staff members living in Skukuza with two meals per day, and helped in the clean-up of their homes. Around 150 people were left destitute, but the church quickly helped everyone back on their feet. “We received mountains of clothing, food and money,” he added.

He told the newspaper a story of how the flood lifted the furniture in homes and the school all the way to the ceilings, and subsided once more.

“One of our members had a showcase, filled with sentimental things, inherited from her grandmother. The case was face down, so we broke off the back panel, not to disturb it. Not one piece of glassware was broken. The case must have floated, and came down gently as the water subsided. Another member forgot her wedding ring on the nightstand. She found it, under her bed, lodged in the mud. Our church is built on rocks, and the water level remained two centimetres below the doors. We laugh about it now, it was the irony of the situation. People were safe at the church,” he reminisced.

The late Mr Mike van Ginkel, then director general of the Aeroclub of South Africa, got clearance for pilots to fly out donations directly to Chibuto airstrip, in the middle of the flooded area, bypassing Maputo.

Read more: Floods of 2000, part 1: History revisited

Also read: Floods of 2000, part 2: The kindness of a community

Read more: Floods of 2000, part 3: Mozambique on its knees

Also read: Floods of 2000 Part 4: Kruger rivers will never be the same again


Elbi Dippenaar

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