The public is urged to donate to the Free State Agriculture’s (FSA) disaster fund to assist farmers who have lost livestock and had their infrastructure destroyed by wildfires.
Animal feed or cash will be accepted.
According to the Farmers’ Weekly, the fires, fanned by strong winds, have destroyed nearly 100 000ha in the western Free State since the weekend.
The fires reportedly started on Sunday when service delivery protesters burned tyres on the R708 road between Hertzogville and Christiana.
Flames from the burning tyres are thought to have spread to the surrounding veld, from where they fanned out to Hertzogville, Boshof, Bultfontein and Hoopstad, according to Gys Olivier, chairperson of the Hertzogville District Farmers’ Union – who spoke to the Farmers’ Weekly.
He described the burnt areas as something akin to a lunar landscape, “eerily quiet and devoid of life”.
However, Olivier said the affected farmers were heartened by all the support that had poured in.
“I have to commend the Working on Fire teams for doing their utmost to contain the inferno. The assistance we received from all sides gave us the courage and resolve to stay positive. The affected districts functioned in a unified manner, forging ahead to fight the inferno. It goes without saying that we are hurt and shocked to the core, but we are not without hope,” he said.
While the cost of the damage caused by the inferno is not yet known, one Hertzogville farmer is said to have lost R900 000 worth of livestock, and the damage to the infrastructure on his farm is R3 million.
The Free State Agriculture has reportedly made R100 000 available from its disaster fund for the transportation of animal feed to the affected areas.
Those who want to donate are urged to call Elaine Olivier on 082 787 9660 or deposit money to the disaster fund at Absa’s account 470 940 670. The reference for the donation is Ramp.
The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture has called on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister, Thoko Didiza, to declare affected places as disaster areas.
“We commend the farmers and farming communities for saving lives and ensuring that there are no casualties, and for acting swiftly to prevent further devastation and decimation of property,” says the committee in a statement.
Chairperson Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela added: “We trust that the investigation will rule out the possibility of arson as it is inconceivable why anyone would want to cause such widespread destruction.”