South Africa — Organised agriculture expressed concern about the lack of basic veld fire prevention measures on government land, following veld fires in Mpumalangas Ermelo and Volksrust districts that caused damage worth millions of rand.
On Johan and Heleen Boschs Klipfontein farm, their homestead, workers houses and livestock were destroyed by the Ermelo fire, which decimated about 8 500ha in total. Johannes Kloppers, chairperson of the Ermelo East Farmers Association, said, The fire started on 2 July about 20km out of town on the Piet Retief Road in the direction of Sheepmoor.
It began on state-owned land and was accompanied by strong winds of up to 80km/h. The fire was eventually extinguished late in the afternoon by farmers, the SA National Defence Force, teams from Eskom and neighbouring mines, as well as teams from the adjoining forestry industry.
Aeroplanes couldnt be used because of the strong winds and heavy smoke. TAU SA regional chairperson Henry Geldenhuys, from the farm Vaalbank, also suffered damage in the Ermelo fire. If it werent for the firebreaks on my farm, the damage wouldve been much, much worse, he said, adding that 30 head of cattle, 10 blesbok and 10 emus were killed on the affected farms. Two young farmers, Charl and Pikkie Vorster, sustained light injuries. The total damage, including destroyed grazing and plantations, is estimated at R11 million.
Geldenhuys said theyre concerned about the lack of firebreaks and basic veld fire prevention measures on government land. When a government official came to meet the farmers, he wasnt even sure if the land where the fire started belonged to government and couldnt give an indication of who is responsible for the management and control of the land. Annelie Coleman