NRZ risks US$1m fine for starting veld fire

NRZ risks US$1m fine for starting veld fire

23 August 2010

published by www.chronicle.co.zw


Zimbabwe — The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) might be fined more than US$1 million if found guilty of starting a veld fire that destroyed a tractor and more than 250 hectares of pastures in Nyamandlovu.
The fire, according to farmers in the area, was started by the parastatal’s safari train on Wednesday morning and affected other farmers in the Redbank area of Nyamandlovu.
The safari train uses coal as its source of energy. Electricity poles were also burnt, resulting in the area being plunged into darkness.
In an interview in Bulawayo yesterday, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA)’s acting provincial manager for Matabeleland North and Bulawayo provinces, Mr Nkululeko Mathobela, said investigations on the causes of the fire would be conducted today.
“We got the report on Friday and tomorrow (today) our officers from Umguza District will visit the site to investigate and map out the damage and a ticket will be issued,” said Mr Mathobela.
“The agency is allowed to charge a fine of up to US$5 000 per hectare destroyed by the veld fire.”
Mr Mathobela said the NRZ has land along the railway lines that they control and it was their responsibility to ensure that it was free from fires.
“The farmers also face possible prosecution if found in the wrong as the officer is also going to investigate whether they had put fire guards to stop the fire from spreading into their properties,” said Mr Mathobela.
A farm worker, Mr Kenny Moyo, last week told Chronicle that fire started from the railway track and was quickly spread by the winds.
The area also has tall dry grass.
Mr Moyo said because of the winds, the fire was moving at 20 metres per second and reaching about three metres high.
He said the fire started at about 9am but they were only able to contain it at about 6pm.
Mr Douglas Ndlovu of Richardson Farm, who lost a tractor and about 250 hectares of pasture, accused NRZ of negligence because the safari train did not have a firefighting team accompanying it.
He said another safari train caused fire in the area two years ago and no action was taken.
Contacted for comment yesterday, NRZ public relations manager Mr Fanuel Masikati said investigations were still in progress and he would only comment on their completion.


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