Deafening silence as Knysna calls for help
National government ignores multiple appeals for assistance
PROPERTY owners and environmentalists in Knysna have slammed the government for failing to respond to requests for urgent funding following the devastating fires in the town earlier this year.
Cobus Meiring from the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative says landowners in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay are concerned about the lack of communication by national government with regard to several applications for funding, following the fires that ravaged large parts of the town.
“Landowners and conservation bodies share the concern that the fires will trigger the unprecedented spread of invasive alien plants, and leave thousands of hectares of dead trees standing throughout the landscape,” Meiring said.
“Thus far, inquiries to the authorities have gone unanswered, and local landowners are increasingly worried that, without intervention, they will have to take full responsibility for managing the effects of the fire as summer approaches in full swing,” he said.
The Environmental Working Group, one of several Garden Route Rebuild Initiative working groups, made several applications to national government for environmental rehabilitation.
The Western Cape government recently gave R75m in relief for the communities to help rebuild the affected areas.
The money is being used for roads, schools, agriculture and human settlements that were affected by the adverse weather and fire.
A large number of devastating fires – which were mainly around Knysna and Plettenberg Bay – swept through the region over the past three weeks, leaving a trail of destruction.
The fires saw about 5 000 residents flee their homes, destroyed about 700 homes and other structures, killed seven people and burnt through more than 20 000ha of land.
The town’s economy has taken a knock, with about 2 500 jobs – mostly in the hospitality industry – affected in about 90 businesses, largely in the accommodation sector, with 33% completely destroyed, 38% of them not covered by insurance.
Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber, said the previously estimated cost of the damage – between R3 billion and R4bn – was likely to increase, taking into account damage to uninsured property.
“Many landowners already expressed concerns that they will not be able to afford, and therefore cannot contain, the aggressive appearance of invasive alien plants and trees on their land,” Meiring said.
The national Treasury did not respond to a request for comment, saying it would do so as soon as possible. Mayihlome Tshwete, spokesperson for Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, did not respond to e-mails.
DESTRUCTION: Nothing much is left of this house after a raging bush fire swept through Knysna in June.