Free State Veld Fires: DA calls for disaster aid to be extended to farming communities

Roy Jankielsohn MPL

Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Provincial Legislature

Almost a 200 000 hectares of grazing veld has been destroyed by raging veld fires across the Free State, with about 100 000 hectares in the Eastern Free State alone, dumping farmers and farming communities into financial uncertainty.

The financial cost in the aftermath of this disaster could amount to tens of millions of rands.

The MEC for Agriculture, Me Mamiki Qabathe, must declare the affected areas disaster areas and apply for disaster aid relief from national government to assist affected communities

I will submit written questions in the Free State Provincial legislature to ask MEC Qabathe details on the department’s response to the current disaster, how emergency and disaster funds were allocated, and how beneficiaries for disaster aid relief are identified.

Government has a responsibility to assist in times of need such as this.

With an ever shrinking agricultural sector in the Free State we must assist in whatever way we can that would protect jobs and the sustainability of this sector.

Disaster Management Services in the Free State are underfunded, under resourced and understaffed. The province requires a minimum of 29 additional fire engines and 73 additional trained personnel per shift to meet the basic standards for effective disaster management.

The province could have limited the extent of the disaster if it had better coordination mechanisms with local government and the necessary resources.