Dear Mabalingwe Shareholders, Friends, and Guests
As many of you will already be aware, a devastating wildfire, which started at around 14:00 on Saturday afternoon, 23 September 2023, on a neighbouring farm, has swept through Mabalingwe Nature Reserve. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
Mabalingwe comprises approximately 8,800 hectares and has been an established holiday destination since the early 1990s. Mabalingwe has 205 privately owned houses (also known as lodges), 105 timeshare chalets, a caravan park, and various commercial entities. With strong winds propelling the fire from the north, the fire rapidly widened to a front measuring several kilometers from end to end. More than one hundred (100) fire protection workers from the local team and staff were deployed and tried to contain the fire through Saturday night and found some success yet were not able to put the fire fully down. On Sunday morning the winds picked up again and spread the fire further and caused havoc resulting in 56 private houses (lodges) being burnt to the ground, with a further eight houses partially damaged. A bush camp and one timeshare chalet were also destroyed. Assessments regarding damage to infrastructure are still ongoing.
The impact on animals within the Reserve is also still being assessed. It is estimated that 6,000 hectares of grazing in the Reserve were consumed by the fire.
All guests and residents staying on the Reserve over the weekend were evacuated, starting on Sunday morning. While the fire was eventually brought under control on the Reserve late afternoon (25 September 2023), firefighters remained on scene, fighting, and managing the fire in the greater Bela-Bela area. The extremely dry environment and windy conditions, as well as the mountainous terrain, have made for extremely challenging conditions for those who have been fighting the fire.
Mr Matie Barnard, manager of the Mabalingwe Common Property Association (MCPA) reported that he is relieved to advise that no human fatalities have occurred. Tragically, a Mabalingwe Nature Reserve staff member was severely burned while assisting with firefighting efforts on Sunday. He was caught in the flames when the wind turned suddenly and was hospitalised for treatment. We are pleased to advise that he was released from the hospital this morning, Tuesday, 26 September 2023. No further injuries or loss of life of any of the fire protection workers as well as the visitors/residents was reported, which can be attributed to the coordinated process resulting in the timeous decision to evacuate the Reserve and the communication between the firefighting teams.
Barnard thanked the Mabalingwe neighbours for their unwavering support during the crisis and local businesses that provided support to the firefighting teams, which included more than 200 individuals at times.
With the immediate danger to life, limb, and property addressed, the focus has now moved to animal welfare where steps have been put in place to ensure a constant supply of water and feed. A generous donation has been received from a veterinary specialist and helicopter team to complete an aerial survey to evaluate the situation. Teams onsite have reported seeing a lot of animals moving around the Reserve. The primary concern for the short term is providing the animals with feed, having lost most available browsing, and grazing to the fire.
We would like to express our gratitude to every staff member, member of the community, local businesses, and the public for your actions amid this tragedy; and overwhelming support, assistance, prayers, and wishes during this time.
We are grateful and humbled to say that we have received numerous requests from individuals wanting to make financial contributions to a Mabalingwe Fire Disaster Support effort. We are also endlessly grateful to the phenomenal greater Bela-Bela community who have provided food and refreshments for the firefighting teams over the past two days.
The pressing need now is for donations to provide support to families that have lost their homes, any requirements for the fire team over-and-above food and refreshments, and for game feed for the wildlife.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank any shareholders and members of the public that are able to donate and assist, in advance. The official banking details for donations are as follows:
Account Name: Mabalingwe Common Property Association
Branch Code: 632005
Account Number: 40 6415 9982
Reference: Kindly only use the following reference – DONATION (for any donations towards the fire team support, or families that have lost houses)
Account Name: LUDUM Game Consortium (Pty) Ltd
Branch Code: 250855
Account Number: 627 827 349 85
Reference: Kindly only use the following reference – GAME FEED (for any donations towards feed for the wildlife)
For any physical game feed donations, the needs include:
• Game blocks and game pellets
• Lucerne, teff, oats, blue buffalo grass
• Salt licks
*Upon arrival at the main gate, Security will direct donations to a drop-off area
In addition, a Back-Our-Bokkies campaign has been established via Ludum Game Consortium. Details and banking details for donations can be viewed via the following link: https://www.ludum.co.za/back-our-bokkies
All the information about what is needed, and the relevant banking details, can be accessed via the above link.
This tragedy has a far-reaching impact on many lives and has had a devastating effect on a significant tract of pristine, reserved South African bushveld and the wildlife and eco-systems contained within that environment. As the recovery and infrastructure repairs get underway, and the rangers begin making provisions for feed and water for the wildlife; we request your prayers for the protection of our people, safe-harbour and relief for the animals, and for the revival and re-establishment of the lands, infrastructure, and earth that make up the greater Mabalingwe Nature Reserve.
As always, we are grateful for the many blessings and kindnesses shown and shared during this devastating event and are incredibly appreciative of the support and care we continue to receive from you, our valued shareholders, friends, and guests.
We kindly request your patience and understanding, as all our operational and administrative systems and procedures have been impacted to some extent. Should you have any specific urgent and important queries, kindly direct same via our email channels and we will attend to same as soon as possible.
The Mabalingwe Nature Reserve Board