Zimbabwe — Six people and 10 elephants were killed in the past two weeks while thousands of hectares of land were damaged by veld fires countrywide.
According to police records, eight fire incidents were recorded during this period while one person was arrested in Mashonaland East Province for starting a veld fire.
The person was fined and released.
Deputy police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka yesterday confirmed the deaths and expressed concern over veld fires being wilfully and negligently caused by people.
“Within the past two weeks, we have about six people who have perished during veld fires. Ten elephants were burnt to death at Derbyshire Ranch in Shangani in Matabeleland South Province.
“We have also carried out 60 awareness campaigns countrywide, educating people to desist from starting veld fires but it seems they were falling on deaf ears as we continue to lose lives and animals,” he said.
He said on August 23 at around 11am, a security guard at Mwenewazvo Farm in Nyabira discovered a fire in the southeastern part of the farm.
He teamed up with other workers to put out the fire, but it intensified and a thick smoke covered the whole area.
Julia Matambo was burnt to death in that fire while Dickson Wilson (22) and Tembeni Mukwaira (39), who was in her company, escaped unhurt.
“The fire spread and damaged 1 050 hectares of land out of a total of 1 500. About 450 hectares are grazing land while 600 are arable,” said Chief Supt Mandipaka.
A 13-year-old boy was burnt to death after he had atte-mpted to save his employer’s cattle from a veld fire at Hayfield Farm in Gweru.
Admire Dube tried to avoid the fire by climbing up a tree, but the inferno engulfed him.
It damaged 2 000 hectares of land.
In Bulawayo, a veld fire reduced to ashes Old Bulawayo, King Lobengula’s capital and Government has pledged to reconstruct the monument.
Another veld fire burnt down Matopos Rock Motel along the Bulawayo-Matopos Road.
Over 10 hectares of land was damaged at Lithon Farm in Kadoma.
Chief Supt Mandipaka said 125 hectares of land were also damaged in Macheke where a calf was burnt to death.
According to the Environmental Management Agency, 10 people were killed as a result of veld fires while a total of 950 905,22 ha of land were affected between January and October last year.
“It is so devastating and anyone caught would be dealt with accordingly in terms of the law. We also hope that the courts will take these cases seriously and pass very harsh sentences,” he said.
According to the Environmental Management Agency, 10 people were killed as a result of veld fires while a total of 950 905.22 ha of land were affected between January and October 2009.
A total of 7 409 incidences were experienced during this period, countrywide.
Veld fires are fires that get out of control and in the process destroy tracts of forests, grasslands, animals and other natural resources or people and their property.
EMA cites careless throwing away of lit cigarette stubs, smoking out bees, sparks from moving steam engines, lighting fires at road servitude and burning to clear vegetation and expose game for easy catch when hunting as some of th emajor causes of veld fires.
Using fires to open up new arable land, deliberate lighting of fires, lighting and tyre bursts are other causes.
To control these fires, fireguards should be put in place especially during the months of May and June while burning should be done when the weather conditions are suitable.
It is also a legal requirement that farmers intending to burn vegetation on their properties should notify occupiers of adjoining land.
According to the Environmental Management Act, it is an offence to deliberately start open fires between July 31 and October 31. It is also an offence to fail to put in place a standard fireguard of at least nine metres, to pass by/drive past a fire without stopping to assist putting out the fire and failing to report a fire within seven working days.
Fines of fire related offences go up to level 14, which is US$5 000.