Andile Tshuma, Chronicle Reporter
VILLAGERS in Kezi, Matabeleland South are living in fear of losing their livestock to starvation as they have lost a lot of grazing land to veld fires.
In an interview, Chief Nyangazonke of Kezi said the veld fire menace was fuelled by hunters and artisanal miners in the area who start fires that they end up failing to contain.
“We are encountering a serious veld fire problem in my area and some unscrupulous people are behind them. It is difficult to prove but illegal hunters start these fires which end up spreading to grazing and communal lands,” said the chief.
He said artisanal miners also start fires to clear land to use metal detectors.
“Other problematic people are gold panners who have become a menace. They start fires to clear land and this is not good for us and our livestock,” said Chief Nyangazonke.
The chief urged Government to respond quickly to the problem as he fears that livestock would perish and people would be impoverished.
“As villagers, our livestock is our wealth and if it is threatened it means that the essence of our livelihood is threatened,” said the chief.
He said the situation was dire because the Meteorological Services Department had forecast that the rainy season would be characterised by erratic normal to below normal rainfall.
“People lose livestock annually due to drought, late rains and other reasons but this time; it is these fires, most of which are a result of illegal and irresponsible activities by some community members. People should conserve land, even those that do not own any livestock,” said the chief.
He called on the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) to educate communities on the dangers of starting fires.
“People do not understand that we all benefit from the environment and is the responsibility of each and every one of us to preserve it.
“In the new dispensation, we must all hold ourselves accountable and reliable for land conservation and offenders must be punished. EMA must hold awareness campaigns because people tend to be selfish and not realise that what they do affects other people,” he said.
“We are always calling for the promotion of tourism, however when we burn bushes since we are neighbours with national parks, our wild animals will cross over to neighbouring countries and there will be nothing left for tourists to see.”
Last week, EMA national spokesperson Mr Steady Kangata warned the public on veld fires which he said damage a lot of arable land annually.—@andile_tshuma.