Free State Disaster Management Services inadequate

James Letuka MPL

Free State Provincial Legislature

Free State Disaster Management Services do not meet the minimum standards as revealed in a reply by COGTA Minister, Pravin Gordhan, to a parliamentary question asked by DA MP, Kevin Mileham.

Disaster Management Services require a minimum of 29 additional fire engines and 73 additional trained personnel per shift to meet basic standards as set out in the South African National Standard (SANS) 10090 for effective disaster management.

The situation in the following six municipalities is cause for serious concern:

  • The Mantsopa Local Municipality has 4 skit pumps, a fire engine, one 5000L truck and one 500L response vehicle, but no personnel to man these and relies on volunteers.
  • In the Fezile Dabi District Municipality, Frankfort needs 2 fire engines, but only has one. The towns of Villiers, Tweeling and Cornelia each requires a fire engine and a complementary staff component, but these towns have neither.
  • Both the Ngwathe and Moqhaka Local Municipalities have no disaster management equipment or a staff component.
  • In Metsimaholo Local Municipality there is no fire engines of fire fighting equipment to work with, but Sasolburg employs five personnel for this task.
  • In the largest rural community of Phuthaditjhaba there is no access to a fire engine.

In short, Free State municipalities are ill equipped to manage any disasters that may strike the province at any time.

Reasons provided by municipalities for failure to meet the minimum standards were due to budgetary constraints.

It is interesting to note that the worst offending municipalities are also the municipalities with the worst audit outcomes, poor household debt collection programmes, and are rife with maladministration, wasteful expenditure and corruption.

I will raise our concerns at the next COGTA committee meeting in the legislature and petition the chairperson, Dora Kotzee, to compel the department to table a comprehensive strategy that would bring Free State disaster management services up to standard.

For now, let us hope the province does not experience any disasters anytime soon. When municipalities fail to function optimally, people’s lives are put at risk.