Veld fires bring ruin to local village

NO MORE: Andile Makhanda from KuVenene village points at a cow that recently died from starvation. The village outside Komani was hit by veld fires which destroyed hectares of grazing land Picture: NTSIKELELO QOYO

KuVenene residents fear unrest may soon erupt at the small village on the outskirts of Komani. Drought, veld fires and hectares of grazing pastures being destroyed by fire have become a source of consternation for the residents whose livelihoods depend on subsistence farming.

“Government will only intervene when there is a dead body. We have been raising this issue for a year and have not been assisted. If things continue like this, the taxi violence in Cape Town will seem like a small thing,” said resident Zamile Jack.

Jack is one of many subsistence farmers who have lost livestock after recent veld fires that hit the area. The fires destroyed most of the grazing land which almost 140 households in the village depend on to feed their cattle, sheep and goats.

According to Jack, the yearly fires bring untold ruin to the community. Through the winter months, the livestock has nowhere to graze and because most of the people there are poor, they cannot afford to buy feed for them.

“The fires happen every year, but this is worse. I have lost four cattle already,” said Jack.

“There is only grazing land left for about two weeks. If nothing changes many other cattle will not survive,” added Andile Makhanda, another resident.

The situation has been made worse because the only dam at the village has run dry and across the road from the village there are open pastures that the villagers say they are not allowed to use.

“Right across the road there is plenty of grazing land. When we send our animals there they are driven out and we are told we have no right to graze there. We do not even know who owns that farm, but what is clear is that only certain individuals are allowed to graze there,” added Makhanda.

Because of the dying animals, it has now become commonplace to eat dead cattle as the villagers try to make the most of the situation. Zonisile Tshukuse, a member of a local committee set up to take the issue to the municipality, said if the state of affairs did not change, things at the village may become unpalatable.

“I am eating a cow that recently died right now. We fear that if no intervention is made things will get worse. I was one of the people who personally delivered a letter to Enoch Mgijima offices about this matter last week. They are yet to reply to us,” said Tshukuse.

In reply on whether the municipality can assist the farmers, Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa said the municipality had received a letter from the farmers and it was being processed

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