Posted by: Catherine Weston | April 2, 2015

Fire and politics

Wild fire on Table Mountain: view from Tokai

Wild fire on Table Mountain: view from Tokai

A few days before our arrival in Cape Town last month, much of the Table Mountain National park was engulfed by wildfire.  At the end of a dry summer, it doesn’t take much to set the whole mountain ablaze, but this was the biggest fire in at least 10 years. It took several days and the concerted efforts of fire crews, volunteers and helicopters to contain. We could still see plumes of smoke as we drove in from the airport, although by then the worst was over.  The photo shows the view from friends’ bedroom window at the height of the fire, burning only 1 km from their house.

Thankfully, we have heard of no loss of life, although some homes were destroyed and, while the fires were raging, some of the mountain roads on the Cape peninsula were closed.  This had an interesting knock on effect for us. The 38th Cape Town Cycle Tour – a popular annual race – took place the weekend we arrived and would normally involve the main road south on the peninsular being closed to normal traffic. So we planned instead to travel by train to the church we were visiting on Sunday. However, with the mountain roads so badly affected, the race was curtailed to a much shorter route and we ended up driving to Fish Hoek after all.

Actually, fires are a good thing for the fynbos, a vegetation type that is unique to the Cape. It’s part of the natural lifecycle of the plants, which can only regenerate after fire.  However, given the devastation and challenge of the latest fires I asked a South African friend if the SAN Parks authorities considered controlled burning.  Oh yes, was the reply, but they need a permit to do so from the national government, which won’t grant it.  You see, he explained, national government (ANC) doesn’t like the fact that the Western Cape Province is governed by the Democratic Alliance.

So a sensible decision to carry out a sustainable environmental practice that would benefit everyone concerned is thrown out because of political rivalry. This is emphatically not a political blog, but with a general election just launched here in the UK, this story is a good reminder to pray for all politicians everywhere to seek to serve their people first for the long term good of all.



  1. Curious as to why you’re keen to emphatically not be political?

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