Farmers fear wineland inferno

Several wine farmers, including rugby star Schalk Burger’s family, were on high alert as a raging fire destroyed about 1700ha of bush in the Wellington area outside Cape Town.

Firefighters said the fire spread up Bain’s Kloof Pass and onto the Groenberg mountain.

On the Schalk Burger & Sons wine estate, the family was up all night at the weekend keeping watch.

The devastating fires come in the wake of deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa calling on white farmers in the Boland Region to stop the eviction of farm workers.

ANC Provincial Chairperson Marius Fransman called a moratorium on what he calls “mass evictions” of farm workers earlier.

Ramaphosa warned white farmers to embrace the “transformation process” of handing over white property to black workers for no compensation.

He expressed his anger at the evictions, saying that it is totally unacceptable. “We cannot accept a situation where working people particularly on farms are treated as badly,” he said, but could give no examples of mistreatment.

During the door-to-door Campaign in Mbekweni Township, Ramaphosa interacted with various families. He visited a family where a 29-year-old disabled woman, Nthabiseng Tofile resides.

Nthabiseng’s mother told Ramaphosa that her daughter became disabled after an Eskom Pole fell on her in 2004. She was living in a township at the time and not on a farm.

A pending by-election is to take place in the Mbekweni area soon. Fransman says Ramaphosa’s visit has nothing to do with the by-election. He is confident that the ANC will retain the ward.

“Luckily, the fire did not come close to us,” said Schalk’s father, Tiaan Burger.

Another farmer, who did not want to be named, said his farm was on the slopes of the Groenberg.

“The flames were humongous and my father single-handedly started bulldozing a firebreak in the early hours. Our family came from Cape Town to help,” an owner said.

Alien vegetation and fynbos were razed on the mountain and on private property.