Dr Bethuel Sibongiseni Ngcamu is the first South African to receive a doctorate degree in Disaster Management in local government. The 34 year-old Human Resources and Development Acting Senior Director at Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) received his fourth degree on Tuesday, 19 April at the Durban University of Technology.
Dr Ngcamu’s thesis Disaster Risk Management in local government: a case study of Foreman and Kennedy informal settlements, eThekwini Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal focuses on the negative physical and social impacts including socio-demographic, socio-political and socio-economic factors.
He said the study aimed to contribute to the formulation of a robust disaster management framework, policy, plan and the creation of a fully equipped Disaster Management Centre within eThekwini Municipality. The study further aims to enable the municipality’s Disaster Management Department to function effectively and efficiently through the application of innovative disaster risk reduction strategies. The research hones in on two informal settlements in Ward 25 of Clare Estate and focuses on disaster preparedness, prevention, response, recovery, rehabilitation, financial implications and future expectations.
Dr Ngcamu grew up in close proximity to KwaShembe squatter settlement in Clermont, near New Germany. He was the only student to receive a matric exemption at Ziphathele Secondary School in 1996. He completed his BPaed degree in Art specializing in Geography and English, at the University of Durban Westville, and went on to teach Grade 12 Geography at Sithengile Secondary School. He also holds a Masters degree in Public Health Law, a Masters Commerce degree in Human Resources Management and has his BSc Honours degree in Geography in the pipeline.
As a creative educator from 2001 to 2004, he reaped excellent results. He then joined eThekwini Municipality as a consultant to the City Manager on Research. Dr Ngcamu was tasked as the Project Manager of the Road Naming project and was responsible for the Rationalization of Township Addresses, while simultaneously managing other projects. His thesis was motivated by the frequent incidences of flash flooding, fires and exploitation by politicians, shack lords, academics, journalists, NGO’s, tavern owners and government officials within these informal settlements. He said fires can be linked to illegal electricity connections and the unmonitored use of candles, paraffin lamps and gas stoves in addition to the use of combustible building material and building in close proximity.
Dr Ngcamu said: “I realized there was a loop hole in the city’s planning to prevent, mitigate, respond, recover, rehabilitate and reconstruct these areas. eThekwini Municipality’s failure to comply with the Disaster Management Act of 2002 made it imperative to conduct a study that was both qualitative and quantitative, with developmental recommendations to assist the municipality to comply with the provisions of the act and to improve the wellbeing of people residing in informal settlements. In most cases, organisations and municipalities lack compliance with the act as they do not have in place mandatory Disaster Management framework, policy and plans. The municipality is currently reacting to disasters but is not proactive in prevention, mitigation, response and recovery. The municipality should implement counter urbanization programmes and decentralize industries and services to the outskirts of the city.”
He said informal settlements are a result of rural urban migration, immigration and illegal immigration. Areas with informal settlements need to be identified in terms of ownership as privately owned property may have gas pipelines and electricity cables beneath them which are not suitable for housing as it poses a threat to human life.“South Africa must adopt best practices on how to manage informal settlements from developing countries like Japan, India and Brazil. The problem of informal settlements can only be minimized through building of RDP houses with proper sanitation, clean drinking water supply and electricity. Environmentally and eco-friendly housing needs greater support from both public and private sector. Furthermore, modern technologies such as Geographical Information Systems, Remote Sensing and other systems can be used to identify and map areas with the aim to improve disaster contingency plans,” said Dr Ngcamu.
While at eThekwini Municipality in 2008, he joined Management Services and Organisation Development Units as Management Advisor, at this point he concurrently worked on his Master’s Commerce degree in Human Resources Management and his doctorate in Public Management, specializing Disaster Management.
In 2000, he joined MUT as an Organization Development Co-coordinator and was later appointed Human Resources and Development Acting Senior Director. He currently focuses on departmental strategy formulation and implementation, policy review, innovative filing systems, mainstreaming of business processes and service delivery improvement.
He said: “I love teaching and research, teaching is embedded in me. I intend on getting back into academia. I have published three articles in accredited journals on disaster preparedness and mitigation in local government and I am currently working towards obtaining my professorship within five years. I believe in making an active contribution to society through teaching and learning, community engagement and applied research. A special thank you to my supervisors Prof Malcolm Wallis and Dr N Dorasamy for their professionalism, unrelenting dedication and outstanding management of my research.”
For more information, please contact Bhekani Dlamini who will facilitate the interview.