12 June 2017

South Africa: Knysna Fires - Out of Tragedy, We Must Rebuild Together

press release

The following remarks were delivered today by DA Leader Mmusi Maimane at a press conference in Brenton-on-sea, following the Leader's visit to Knysna. Maimane was joined by the Mayor of Knysna, Cllr Eleanore Bouw-Spies.

I have spent today in Knysna, visiting the communities of Concordia, White Location, Knysna Heights, Welbedacht, and Brenton, to meet with residents who were affected by the tragic fires, and to assess the current situation. I was joined by the Mayor, Cllr Eleanore Bouw-Spies, who also took me to the Joint Operations Centre, which she established, and which has been the headquarters of the rescue mission.

The situation is truly heart-breaking. I am told that six people have lost their lives as a direct result of these fires. One man I met today has lost both his wife and his six year old daughter, and the home they lived in. People's lives, like the landscape itself, lie in ashes.

I wish to extend my sincere condolences, and those of the Democratic Alliance, to those who lost their loved ones in this disaster. Out of this tragedy, we must redouble our efforts to rebuild people's lives and bring hope to the future.

DA branches in the region are mobilising to provide humanitarian support in the form of food, shelter, and clothing. I congratulate them on their quick response, for which I am deeply grateful.

I wish to thank Mayor Bouw-Spies, who has been a beacon of calm in this crisis, and who has provided leadership in coordinating the response. Over a thousand firefighters risked their lives and gave of their time and energy to bring the fires under control. I'm told - weather permitting - the fires will be completely extinguished in the next 48 hours.

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all who have been involved, who have reached out to strangers, offering to help in myriad ways. It is in times like these that we reveal the true depths of our humanity and generosity.

The tourism industry in Knysna is key to job creation and the economy in this area, and it has naturally taken a severe blow. We encourage all South Africans to continue to support the town of Knysna. And we call on all South Africans, especially corporate companies, to continent to provide towards the relief effort in this disaster area, where many thousands have been displaced and lost their homes.

Out of tragedy, we must all work together to rebuild lives.

Mmusi Maimane

Leader of the Democratic Alliance

South Africa

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