In a recent so-called “Opinion” article, which prominently appeared the Sunday Standard newspaper (“The National Disaster Management Office is a Disaster” 27/4/08) a certain Kenneth Dipholo was given free reign in publishing a series of scurrilous, mean-spirited and, in each case, totally unsubstantiated allegations against the National Disaster Management Office (hereafter NDMO). In the process, the author demonstrated a fundamental ignorance about the role and responsibility of this Office, as well as a small talent for hurling unfettered insults at the Office of the President.
In his tirade, Mr. Dipholo mercilessly accused members of the NDMO of engaging in “bully tactics” and “abuse targeted at poor people” as well as “shouting insults”, all allegations that arguably better describe the author’s own poison pen than the actual activities of NDMO personnel.
Contrary to Mr. Dipholo’s innuendo, it has never been the role of NDMO to micro-manage the handling of veld fires, which has been and remains a primary responsibility of the Department Of Forestry and Range Resources (DFRR). In this context Dipholo’s diatribe against NDMO clearly falls away.
We also take this opportunity to reassure the public that, contrary to Dr Dipholo’s assertion, it is the very mission of NDMO to be proactive in ensuring a necessary state of disaster preparedness and capacity among various stakeholders from the central Government to the community level in responding to any disasters that might occur. In this context NDMO already works in conjunction with NGOs and CBOs as well as other government departments. Of course, in any institutional setting there can always be room for improvement. But, Mr. Dipholo’s character of NDMO as a body that prefers to wait for disaster to strike is clearly baseless.
With specific respect to the issue of veldfire or bushfires, we also note that DFRR, as the lead agency in wild-land management, has put in place several measures as a preparedness way to deal with the anticipated wild-land fire season. Among other things, these measures include:
Intensifying Information Dissemination Campaigns, in which the department, through its District Conservation Committee, holds Kgotla meetings throughout the country that addresses the public on wild-land fire issues;
Maintaining a 10 000 Km network of firebreaks, to reduce the extent and spread of fires;
Sensitizing stakeholders, including political leaders, to play their role by pledging resources to be availed prior to fire outbreaks;
Operating a real time fire detection system (in collaboration with Department of Information Services, and Meteorological services, DFRR are operating a GIS-based fire detection system, which provides information on active fires and facilitate rapid fire suppression activities); and
Placing of signboards at strategic places countrywide, the department will spend about P1million in designing, procuring and placing signboards with relevant messages (warning the public about fire hazards in those zones and locality) at strategic places around the country.
In such ways, DFRR has been busy preparing Batswana to meet the challenge of wild-land fires.
Temba Sibanda is the National Disaster Management Office’s Public Relations Officer.