The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture has called on Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, to declare the areas in the Free State and Northern Cape affected by huge and widespread veld fires disaster areas.

The committee says, in a statement, that many farms in areas such as Hertzogville, Hoopstad, Bultfontein and Dealesville have been destroyed. There have been huge losses of property, livestock and game.

The committee has praised farmers and farming communities for saving lives and ensuring that there were no human casualties, and for acting swiftly to prevent further devastation.

Committee Chair Zwelivelile Mandela says they hope that any probe into the fires will rule out arson as a cause.

The Free State Umbrella Fire Project’s Johan Breytenbach says additional resources from the provincial disaster management and Lejweputswa district disaster management centres as well as external resources are being deployed to the area to fight the massive fires raging in parts of the province.

The association says the veld fires in Boshof and Herzogville are at the rate that can be classified as a disaster. There are multiple extensive fires currently in the province.

The association says the fires crossed the border from Northern Cape. Breytenbach says locals have been battling the fires since the weekend.

“Additional fire started in the Hertzogville area which is part of the Tokologo Local Municipality and local members and landowners, as well as farmers, have been battling the fire since Sunday afternoon. The fires (are) still ongoing but with the prevailing extreme weather conditions, the fires are extremely difficult to extinguish and we need to start arranging for external resources to become available in the area. The incident command post and coordinated have been put in place since yesterday to put fires under control.”

Breytenbach says additional resources from the provincial disaster management and Lejweputswa district disaster management centres as well as external resources are being deployed to the area to fight the fire.

In the Northern Cape, the raging veld fires have consumed hundreds of hectares of grazing land. The fires are in the Majeng and Hartsvallei areas near Warrenton.

Farmers’ association Saam Werk Saam Trek says the fires are hitting the farmers who have been battling to make ends meet, hard.

The association’s Sehularo Sehularo says damage caused by the veld fires are extensive.