WINDHOEK – Veld fires that have been raging out of control in the Okamatapati area for the past three days have left residents in shock and dismay as the fires advance towards their homesteads.
Okakarara Constituency Councillor, Vetaruhe Kandorozu, confirmed that last year a farmer and his worker died due to burns when they tried to extinguish the fires.
“There is no assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry yet,” he complained.
The forestry office in Okakarara, he noted, lacks fire-extinguishing equipment.
The fires have not yet reached the homesteads – however about 3 000 hectares of grazing land have already been destroyed, according to Kandorozu.
The councillor explained that a truck sent from the forestry office in Otjiwarongo broke down and another truck from Gobabis that could have come to their assistance is not roadworthy.
“We have asked the Ministry of Defence, but we have not yet received a response,” the constituency councillor said.
He accused the forestry ministry of not taking charge of veld fires and failing to provide training to farmers on how to deal with veld fires.
“They do not provide on-site equipment or standby transport,” he fumed, saying he fears that the fires are about to reach the homesteads where about 5 000 people live.
“Fire-fighting equipment and trucks should be made available for every constituency and not only one for the region,” he said.
If another fire breaks out in Tsumkwe now, nothing can be done due to the fact that the only available truck has broken down, he said.
When New Era contacted the Directorate of Forestry in the forestry ministry, a ministry official confirmed that the director, Joseph Hailwa, would not be available for the rest of the week.
The official said if a veld fire is not in the jurisdiction of a town or village, then it is not the ministry’s responsibility to extinguish the fire.
She added that someone would get back to this reporter once it is established under whose jurisdiction Okamatapati resorts.