South Africa: Committee Wraps up Northern Cape Public Hearings on National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill

South Africa: Committee Wraps up Northern Cape Public Hearings on National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill

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The Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries yesterday wrapped up its Northern Cape leg of public hearings on the National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill [B24-2021] in Hope Town.

The committee noted the issues raised by many people who support the Bill. Some of them said that their communities need fire and emergency services, training on firefighting, and firefighting equipment. The committee also heard that people in rural areas are experiencing water shortages and they do not have means of building fire breaks to protect their homes and livestock against fire.

The committee heard that communities relied on fire services that are far from them as a result when fire breaks it causes a lot of damage as fire fighters arrive late given the long distance they travel before they reach the burning place.

The residents supported the formation of fire protection associations, but they called for assistance with equipment, funding and training. They also appealed for employment for the unemployed youth and asked that the Working on Fire program to cover the unemployed youth and be a permanent employer.

The committee appreciates that Clause 2 of the Bill seeks to amend section 3 of the Act which deals with the formation of fire protection associations. The clause makes provision for the municipalities and traditional leaders in communal lands to facilitate the formation of the fire protection associations if the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment is of the opinion that a fire protection association is needed.

The Chairperson of the House of Khoisan told the committee that provincial traditional leaders appreciate that they are going to be involved in the Bill, but they needed more information on funding and requested support on firefighting training, equipment and a budget. Furthermore, they requested an intervention for land as they are currently being evicted from municipal land.

Provincial leaders told the committee they are vulnerable to veld fires and they do not feel safe on this land. The committee heard that provincial leaders appreciated that the Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Bill recognised their role in implementing and executing legislation.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Ms Faith Muthambi, said: “We are happy that today, the people of Pixley Ka Seme District came out in their numbers. Public hearings allow our people an opportunity to participate in their democracy. Their participation on Bills which directly affect them gives meaning to public participation.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Parliament.

Source: APO