Santam, one of South Africa’s biggest financial services groups, has donated R1 million to Kouga Municipality to help prevent the outbreak and spread of fires.
11 homes were destroyed in the 2019 St Francis Bay fire, with 85 fire fighters involved in extinguishing the flames.
The cheque was presented to Kouga by John Lomberg, Santam’s Head of Market Development. The funds will be allocated towards the clearing of alien vegetation in areas deemed a high fire risk.
Lomberg stressed how important it is for business to work with government to help ensure the safety of communities: “Mitigating fire risk is everyone’s business. Government cannot do it alone.”
The donation forms part of Santam and the Department of Cooperative Governance’s Partnership for Risk and Resilience (P4RR). This assists municipalities to build capacity in combatting the risks of fire and flooding within vulnerable communities. It does so through the donation of resources and sustained disaster management training.
Lomberg said Santam has been proactively partnering with municipalities for over ten years.
“We help municipalities to manage and mitigate risks relating to fires and other threats such as drought and crime.
“We started with five municipalities; we now partner with 53. Given the impact of climate change catalysing more extreme weather events, these partnerships are more essential than ever before.”
Alderman Ben Rheeder, who represented the Mayor at the handover, said the municipality was greatly appreciative of the donation.
“Minimising the fire risk across our region is a priority for us. The St Francis Bay area, especially, has been ravaged by big fires and various initiatives, including bush-clearing, have been rolled out to help minimise the risk.
“This donation will help us to accelerate the bush-clearing programme and keep our communities safe,” he said.
Rheeder commended the many local stakeholders who have been working with the municipality to minimise fire risk.
He said a St Francis Bay Fire Risk Reduction Committee had been established to bring together roleplayers in order to identify and implement mitigation measures.
“These roleplayers include experts in botany and conservation so as to ensure that protecting indigenous vegetation and life is taken into consideration in all action taken.”