The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the decision by the Free State Provincial Government to declare the areas of the Xariep District that were devastated by veld fires provincial disaster areas. This was confirmed in correspondence from the Office of the Premier after the DA wrote to her in this regard.
The MEC for the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in the Free State, Mr Thembeni Nxangisa, has confirmed that a request has been submitted by the province to the National Disaster Management Centre for “classification, verification and assessment with the view to allocate necessary resources and budget to deal with the plight of both farmers and the community in the area”.
On 12 July 2021 large areas of Xariep District in the area of Petrusburg were devastated by run-away veld fires. The Free State Umbrella Fire Protection Association has indicated that the damage is extensive with 104 000 hectares of veld burnt.
During this fire, 396 farm portions were affected with 35 farms completely burnt, of which 134 farms are 90% burnt and 216 were 50% burnt. There was also massive loss of infrastructure and livestock. The damage is estimated to be around R345 million and the local economy, which is largely agriculture dependent in those areas, has suffered massive setbacks as a result of this.
The Xariep District is the poorest in the Free State with the highest unemployment and requires government intervention to mitigate the effects of disasters such as veld fires. The DA has previously requested the provincial government to budget annually for disasters of this nature. Such funds should be used to assist residents of the province in their hours of great need during disasters that destroy livelihoods and impact greatly on the local economies in some areas.
Our farmers and their employees are national assets who produce the commodities that ensure that we all have food and clothing. The DA hopes that the Free State Provincial Government ensure that the distribution of assistance is carried out expeditiously in a manner that prevents wastage on implementing agents.