In what could be seen as out-the-box thinking encouraging longer use of government-owned vehicles a Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentarian proposes using suitable and properly retrofitted decommissioned military vehicles to boost the national firefighting appliance population.
Last week’s massive veld fires in Free State, North West and Northern Cape again brought to the fore the damage uncontrolled fires cause in prime South African agricultural areas as far as both cash crops and livestock are concerned.
Annette Steyn, DA shadow agriculture, land reform and rural development minister, plans to involve the Auditor-General for “guidance” regarding Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) regulations. She does not give an indication of timeframe but if she acts before December her point of contact will be outgoing AG Kimi Makwetu. After that she will deal with South Africa’s first female AG Tsakani Maluleke.
Steyn wants the official line from the AG on what can be done with decommissioned SA National Defence Force (SANDF) vehicles up for disposal. Her plan is to make no longer needed military vehicles, probably the smaller Samil 20 two-tonner, available for sale to fire protection associations. Once retrofitted with firefighting equipment they would, according to her, be put to work in the national interest.
Explaining her thinking Steyn said: “Government has a responsibility to do all in its power to fight fires that often start on land used by State resources including roads, railways, municipalities or SANDF facilities and adversely affects rural communities and farms in these areas.
“Often municipalities, SANDF bases and other State institutions bordering rural communities and farms are not part of fire protection associations as law dictates. This leaves communities and farmers to largely deal with the devastation of fires on their own as we have again seen during recent fires across three provinces. There are small exceptions as seen in Boshoff where Working on Fire assisted in fighting fires. Had more vehicles been available, further outbreaks could have been prevented.
“These fires claimed 1 800 head of livestock in Free State alone. It also saw injuries to volunteers fighting the fires. More than 200 000 ha of agricultural land was destroyed. Those fighting fires received little to no help from municipalities in the burning areas,” she said.
The SANDF has in the past five years made use of Cuban military mechanics and technicians to refurbish and recondition military vehicles, mostly those used for logistic and personnel transport including the Samil 20. All told the national defence force maintains Cuban expertise has seen in the region of six thousand military vehicles brought back to working condition. With no increase in the national defence budget likely over the medium term and no indication from the SANDF of its truck needs in various mass classes, potential buyers are advised to keep an eye on defence materiel disposal sales managed by Armscor.