Groot Tsumis Farmers Association launched a project to assist those affected by the weeklong veld fire that tormented Rehoboth and left one farmer dead and another in critical condition in a Cape Town hospital.
The wildfire started on Wednesday, 14 September 2022, and was put out only by Saturday, 17 September 2022.
According to the GTFA, 19 750 hectares of grazing land have been destroyed as well as infrastructure around the outskirts of Rehoboth, Tsumis and Bahnhof.
In total, 14 farms were either completely or partially burned down.
“We have launched a project to support the farmers who suffered damage. We, therefore, appeal to any person or institution who wants to get involved in this regard, or if you have any further queries to get in touch with any member of the management or with the chairman Heini Isaacs 0815615512/0811295950 or Gerhard Enssle 0812416934,” said GTFA.
According to Enssle, the project aims to assist these affected farmers to rebuild and repair infrastructure that was damaged in the veld fire.
Enssle also added that the organisation does not want money but rather prefers that donors buy out stock at local businesses, such as Agra and Kaap Agri, so the GTFA collect from the products and distributes it among the farmers.
“We are prepared to give a full account of the support. This is a once-off project, and it will be ceased once support is depleted,” Enssle added.
Members in need of grazing have also been placed out to farmers who offered free grazing to affected members.
“We would like to solicit support from willing and smart partners, individuals and companies who are prepared to donate fencing material, water tanks, pipelines, etc. We will distribute to the affected farmers according to the need,” said Enssle.
The victory in fully eradicating the fire, however, was all due to the efforts of the farmers, farm workers, corporate institutions, businesses and the communities of Rehoboth, as well as the army, police and staff from various government departments and directorates, such as Nampol.
Chief fire and emergency safety officer Dirk Cloete, who fought the blaze with the farmers, said working cohesively to tame the fire was one of the biggest challenges they faced.
“We have an appreciation for the number of people who turned up, but directing them was a problem. Emotions were high because people had lost a lot and they were tired. Before things were allowed to get out of hand, we had to implement the Fire Brigade Services Act and take ownership of involved areas to ensure we save lives and property. By this, we, unfortunately, had to inform some members that interference with our duties is considered an offence,” he said.
Cloete further said they were able to identify why the fire was so fast to spread.
“We also observed that most of these areas did not have fire breaks in place, which we always advocate for. This fire was thus able to spread due to the large areas of dry grass or fuel available. We advise the different fire services to form safety forums with all stakeholders and put pre-action plans in place,” he cautioned.
GTFA said this ordeal has strengthened the bond between farmers.
“Fellow farmers, this untimely and devastating event has brought us together with one common goal. We teamed up without any reservations or expectations. We have come together as a unit to protect our heritage and as stewards to preserve the land entrusted to us. From here, may we, as a collective, continue to support each other on the road ahead as we rebuild and restore for the benefit of our country and her people,” they said.
Cloete hopes that moving forward, a type of safety forum can be established with all stakeholders and a pre-action plan can be put in place.
“These forums may involve farmers, the business community and different organisations and agencies. The objective is to identify required resources and training, and to test this plan on a regular basis, thereby establishing whether it is responsive and where it can be improved on. Awareness and training are of utmost importance,” he advised.
Quinton Diergaardt (47) died in the fire.
He was airlifted to South Africa with Rehoboth mayor Enrico Junius after sustaining serious burns.