“The primary responsibility for disaster management in South Africa rests with the government”, this was the sentiment expressed by Minister Des van Rooyen during his visit to the Western Cape today (09 January 2017). The Minister indicated disaster management is part of his portfolio within the Ministry for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, hence his visit to assess the damage caused by fire in the areas around Stellenbosch.
The visit by Minister van Rooyen provided an opportunity to meet with various stakeholders, including MEC Anton Bredell, Mayoral committee member JP Smith and the provincial disaster management teams. The Minister was briefed on the work that was done to bring the fires under control in the affected areas. The briefing was followed by an assessment of the affected areas to see the extent of the damages and destruction caused by fires.
After assessing the affected areas, it was clear that the efforts of the fire teams that battled the inferno under difficult conditions and terrain, went a long way to save lives and property. It is through the dedication and selfless work by all involved that the Loss of life as well as major property and ecological losses were averted.
The Minister expressed appreciation and gratitude to all stakeholders and the teams that worked tirelessly to bring the fires under control. This success stems from the good working relations between the various spheres of government as resources were combined for maximum impact. “This is a good example of how we can achieve best results by combining our resources to ensure safety and wellbeing of the publics and our natural resources”, said Minister.
The stakeholders, communities, land owners, farmers and other organisations were urged play their part in ensuring that fires are prevented because containing them is an expensive exercise. As part of the efforts to ensure preventions, Minister requested that all stakeholders should be engaged, including schools to educate leaners about the dangers of fires and others who can contribute to zero fires as this is a societal issue and it cannot be left to government alone.
Where required, government will motivate for more resources to be made available as needed to strengthen capacity to respond effectively to disasters like fires or floods within the cost saving guidelines adopted by our country.
Since most the fires are started by humans, it is important to impose harsher penalties to those who are convicted of such crimes. CoGTA will support and work with other departments to look at how through legislative review, penalties for those who start fires are harsher and that such cases are given a priority and treated with the urgency they deserve.
The Minister indicated that CoGTA will continue to support the disaster management work across the country in an effort to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the communities.
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