From Rusana Philander in Cape Town for TZ Business News.
A Tanzanian national has appeared in court here on charges of alleged arson in connection with a devastating fire, which gutted many hectares of vegetation on Table Mountain and buildings at the University of Cape Town (UCT).
Spokesperson of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Eric Ntabazalila, has confirmed a 35 year old man, Frederick Mhangazo appeared in the Cape Town Regional Court on Tuesday, April 20, 2021 charged with alleged arson. The case has been postponed to 28 April 2021 for a bail application.”
Apparently the man was cooking food in the bush at a make-ship structure he was living in on Table Mountain near a roadside, According to reports. He left the fire unattended and the bush went alight. South African destitutes and jobless foreigners survive in make shift structures on mountains in Cape Town.
Nine people were taken to hospital with breathing challenges after smoke inhalation and six fire fighters sustained injuries in the line of duty.
Eleven structures were damaged or destroyed. It included houses in the Rosebank area, education buildings on the University of Cape Town campus. Heritage buildings including the Mostert’s Mill, the UCT Jagger library and a part of the Rhodes Memorial restaurant. At the library African history was destroyed. Two major Africcan collections burnt. The African history monographs and the African films collection that were collected over 20 years, were destroyed in the fire.
The fire is currently largely contained but fire fighters are watching hot spots. The fire started on Sunday. It was worsened by the southeasterly winds which fanned it tremendously. But the wind dropped significantly on Tuesday; helicopters have been waterbombing the fire lines to help contain it.
Anton Bredell, the minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning in the Western Cape said the danger is not entirely over just yet.
He said: “Our first priority remains fully extinguishing all of the fire lines. Then over the next few days firefighters will continue to dampen down the affected areas and monitor for flare-ups until we are one hundred percent sure the fire is out.
“Damage assessments will be done as well and once the fire has been extinguished the investigation into the cause of the fire will be conducted.
“Tackling an operation of this scale and nature is not something any one entity can do alone. We want to acknowledge the City of Cape Town, the Table Mountain National Park, Working on Fire and Volunteer Wildfire Services as well as the South African National Defence Force,” he said.
Western Cape premier, Alan Winde, said: “I have such deep appreciation for the efforts of the City of Cape Town under Mayor Dan Plato, the Table Mountain National Park, Working on Fire and Volunteer Wildfire Services as well as the South African National Defence Force.
Winde continued: “I especially want to thank the hard-working men and women who are serving on the frontline, risking their lives to put a stop to the fires. Their efforts have been nothing short of heroic. I also want to thank the many NGOS, private businesses and residents in the province who have generously made donations to support our firefighters’ efforts. It is incredibly heart-warming to see how we have come together as a province and as a City in this time of crisis to save our mountain and heritage sites.”