Catholic Archbishop of Durban, South Africa, Tells Flood Victims “God is still with us”

Archbishop Siegfried Mandla Jwara of South Africa's Durban Archdiocese. Credit: SACBC

The Catholic Archbishop of Durban in South Africa has reassured those affected by deadly floods in KwaZulu-Natal Province of God’s continued presence amid loss of hundreds of human life and destruction of property.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Archbishop Siegfried Mandla Jwara acknowledged with appreciation the faith of the people and underscored the need to foster hope.

“People must have hope; God has not deserted them; God is still with us,” Archbishop Jwara said during the April 16 interview.

The South African Archbishop recalled the common message of faith-based leaders to the victims of the floods saying, “Ecumenical leaders came together for the Good Friday procession, which we normally have every year. The message yesterday was that people must have hope; people should not think that God has deserted them.”

“The damage is enormous, even the government doesn't know where to start”, the Local Ordinary of Durban Archdiocese who, along with other religious leaders, led the annual Diakonia Council of Churches Ecumenical Good Friday Procession through the streets of Durban to pray for the flood victims told ACI Africa April 16.


He added in reference to South Africa’s Head of State, Cyril Ramaphosa, “The president was here a few days ago. He saw everything for himself, but then it's still difficult to know what to do next because we’re being told that these floods will continue over the weekend.”

According to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), heavy rain across KwaZulu-Natal in Southeastern South Africa has claimed the lives of at least 443 people, leaving thousands displaced. 

During a media briefing on Sunday, April 17, KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Sihle Zikalala, said the floods were among the worst catastrophes to befall the South African Province.

"We suspect the human toll and damage surpasses the 1987 floods, which engulfed this part of the world”, said Premier Zikalala.

Government officials say 63 people are still missing and more than 13,000 households have been affected. Shops, warehouses, and malls are flooded and heavily damaged. Key transport routes into the city of Durban and surrounding roads and bridges to residential areas have been badly damaged or destroyed.

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In the April 16 interview with ACI Africa, Archbishop Jwara said multiple Parishes in his Episcopal See had been affected by the floods.

“Maybe about four or five parishes were affected here in the city”, the member of the Congregation of Mariannhill Missionaries (CMM) said, and added, “We thank God that Parishes in rural areas have not been affected.”

He recognized the efforts of Caritas South Africa saying, “We have Caritas KwaZulu-Natal and then we have Caritas Durban which has been assisting those affected by the floods with food and blankets at Parish level. I will be meeting with Caritas Durban on Monday to see how we can further assist.”

Archbishop Jwara also recognized the faith of the people despite weather vagaries. He said, “Despite the heavy rain, people attended the Easter services, the Cathedral was packed full, people still see the church as the place of refuge and as the place where they can pray for hope that God no will intervene.”

Following days of heavy rain and floods, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), in collaboration with Caritas South Africa, sent emergency relief to Caritas Durban, Caritas Mariannhill and Caritas Mthatha, which are in the most affected areas.


In his traditional Easter message followed by his blessing "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world), Pope Francis prayed for the victims of natural disasters in recent weeks, especially flood victims in South Africa.

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.