VIDEO, PICS: 70 000 hectares destroyed in Northern Cape, but ’new firefighting vehicles left idle for mayor photo opportunity’
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Cape Town – By Monday, 70 000 hectares of arable land stretching from Kathu to Daniëlskuil in the Northern Cape have been destroyed by runaway fires, affecting more than 45 farms.
However, the DA was shocked to discover that two new firefighting vehicles donated a while ago to municipal authorities were not allowed to be used to extinguish the fires.
Volunteers, like the DA’s Andre Schoeman from Rhino Security, helped to ensure that the fires didn’t cause even greater devastation, DA Northern Cape constituency head of Kalahari Willie Aucamp told IOL on Tuesday.
After numerous unanswered calls to members of the Northern Cape provincial government, the DA in the province has urged Premier Zamani Saul to address the destruction of runaway fires in the Kalahari, Aucamp said.
’’When authorities were asked by farmers to deploy these vehicles, it was said that the vehicles cannot be used before a photo was taken with the mayor.
’’This is utterly unacceptable. A photo opportunity cannot supersede the lives and livelihoods of our farming communities,’’ Aucamp said.
The fires are believed to have originated within the Lohatlha Military Base on Sunday and worsened because the army’s fire breaks, built four years ago, were not maintained by the base, Aucamp said.
’’Failure to maintain fire breaks in these drought-prone conditions is criminal negligence,’’ he said.
DA defence spokesperson Kobus Marais is due to escalate this matter today to Minister of Defence Thandi Modise.
’’We hope that she prioritises efforts to extinguish fires and assist farmers in distribution of water and fodder.
’’Considering the impact of ongoing droughts, the loss of thousands of hectares is a crisis. If government continues to turn a blind eye, this crisis will escalate into a catastrophe for agriculture and food security.
’’Neither the MEC for Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Mase Manopole, nor the MEC for Co-operative Governance, Bentley Vass, were available on Monday when I tried to alert them.
’’The DA suggests that government needs to coordinate firefighting efforts with groups like Working on Fire for greater support, including resources like helicopters.
’’If it wasn't for the tireless efforts of volunteers, like the DA’s aspirant candidate Andre Schoeman from Rhino Security, the fires would have caused even greater devastation. We applaud the volunteers.
’’But it is worrying that whenever a crisis occurs, communities are left to fend for themselves without assistance or support from government,’’ Aucamp said.