Andrew Louw, MPL
DA Provincial Leader
The Democratic Alliance calls on COGHSTA to assist municipalities with fire prevention. We are now going into veld fire season and large areas of the Northern Cape do not have sufficient fire prevention facilities. The department must conduct oversight over municipalities to ensure that there are proper fire brigade and veld fire services throughout the province. We have seen this weekend how quickly a tragedy can occur where there isn’t sufficient fire prevention in place. As the DA, we want to send our heartfelt condolences to the family who have lost their beloved sons. We hope that this terrible tragedy will spur the department and the municipality into action.
A written question to COGHSTA reveals that there are only 15 fire trucks in the Northern Cape, six of which are in the Sol Plaatje municipality. We recommend to COGHSTA and to Sol Plaatje that a satellite fire station should be established in Roodepan. This is the furthest point from town and families here also need assistance.
We are dismayed to see that the department has no clear strategy to make fire prevention in the province more efficient. We call on COGHSTA to develop and implement a strategy which will help municipalities to deliver a proper fire brigade service to communities. The fire brigade service is not dedicated to local municipalities by the MEC of COGHSTA. So municipalities don’t make provision for fire prevention in their annual budgets. COGHSTA should either hand over the fire brigade function to municipalities or it must step up its assistance. It cannot be that a province covering an area larger than Germany only has 15 fire trucks. Responsibilities need to be allocated and communicated clearly so that every stakeholder knows what is expected of him or her.
Despite the fact that the veld fire service function must be delivered by district municipalities, it is only the Frances Baard district municipality that possesses a fire truck. The department states in its written response that the fire grants received from provincial treasury is not sufficient to procure fire trucks. In July 2014, the MEC for Finance allocated R350 000 to each district municipality in terms of the fire fighting grant. This is definitely not sufficient to procure fire trucks, which are estimated by the department to cost at least R1.3 million each. However, the R44 million of fruitless and wasteful expenditure that the department incurred in 2013/14 would have been enough to buy 33 fire trucks. If the department managed its finances properly, it would have been able to deliver services instead of excuses.
We also need to see that the department assists municipalities with the training of fire fighters. There are only 57 trained fire fighters in the province, 36 of which are employed in Sol Plaatje. So there’s effectively 21 fire fighters for the province outside Sol Plaatje.
Training fire fighters isn’t just for show; it’s to improve the fire fighting functions of municipalities and it can assist meaningfully in job creation.