Cogta calls for revision of arson laws

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des van Rooyen wants arson laws to be tightened. PICTURE: ROBERT TLAPU

Legislation governing arson attacks need to be revised, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Des van Rooyen said when he visited Somerset West on Monday.

His visit followed the devastating blaze that swept through 10000ha of land in Helderberg last week.

Firefighters have responded to more than 600 fires across the Mother City since last Tuesday.

The minister has called for intensified efforts to boost the effectiveness of fire safety awareness campaigns.

Van Rooyen said legislation governing arson attacks needed to be tightened.

“We need to engage with the justice cluster to determine if the current legislation is severe enough to stop people from starting fires,” he said.

Member of the mayoral committee for safety and security Jean-Pierre Smith said investigators had received information that some of the fires that broke out in the region were started deliberately.

“We are calling for people to come forward with information. If you saw a vehicle or person engaging in suspicious behaviour, call us,” Smith said.

The estimated fire damage is R60m.

In total, more than 300 firefighters were involved in fighting the recent blazes. Various other groups also assisted in combatting the fires, including Working on Fire, Cape Town biodiversity management firefighting staff and various wildfire volunteer groups.

Aerial firefighting has been ongoing but was suspended due to poor visibility due to smoke.

The Helderberg fire is almost out, with small flare-ups remaining due to strong winds. Some fires at the top of the mountain remain in the inaccessible areas between Hansekop and Lourensford.

There has been no loss of human life. Large numbers of animals were rescued, including horses, baboons, snakes, tortoises and antelope.

Thirty-three city firefighting vehicles were used and seven structures were destroyed, which included one dwelling and Ezweni Lodge. The other structures were outbuildings.

The fire is contained in the mountains and away from residential areas. The fire department says the situation is now stable.