Controversial Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and beleaguered President Jacob Zuma, on Thursday, visited the Wit Lokasie and Knysna Heights communities, where scores people got displaced due to the recent raging fire that also caused large scale property damage, deaths and injuries.
At least 300 properties in Knysna, one of South Africa’s premier tourist destinations, were razed to ashes by the raging fire which lasted for 5 days.
Damaged properties and total loss in the disaster is said to run into billions – including loss of wild animals, hectares of forest, houses, and even 7 lives.
Zuma and Zille started their site visits in Knysna Heights and later moved to White Location and other affected areas. They were accompanied by Cooperative Governance Minister Des van Rooyen, DA provincial leader Bonginkosi Madikizela‚ as well as other officials.
Speaking to residents, Zuma described the scene that confronted him as the worst disaster he has ever experienced.
When Zille was asked about making an appearance with Zuma, she said unity in South Africa must go beyond politics, “at the best times and at the worst times‚ such as this”.
Shortly after the visits, Zille was taken to task by her fans on social media after she tweeted that President Zuma is ’empathetic and charming’.
At a personal level, the Prez is empathetic and charming.As we walked through the ash and ruins he asked me how I was bearing up personally. https://t.co/KYssFDwGpO
— Helen Zille (@helenzille) June 15, 2017
Zille has always maintained this opinion of Zuma, having called him charming years ago as well. This time, her tweet was greeted with many backlashes.
Did he offer to marry you?
— Ploni Almoni (@SneakyRusski) June 15, 2017
You guys seem to have a very special relationship. pic.twitter.com/J8GAwzh7ad
— Sphamandla (@MandlaMkhize) June 15, 2017
God should have never given us these two people pic.twitter.com/WeaVtc09E8
— Vhakoma (@blackpresidante) June 15, 2017
— Neal Collins (@nealcol) June 15, 2017
Earlier this week after her apology for her alleged racist tweets in March, Zille was barred from participating in any DA decision-making meeting by her party. She, however, retained her position as Western Cape Premier. She also agreed to step down from all positions within the party as a sanction.
BuzzSouthAfrica understands that the Knysna Municipality has rolled out an infrastructure rebuilding programme in various fire affected areas.
The Western Cape government has also promised to release R75 million in emergency funding to assist with the damage in Knysna and other surrounding areas.
Meanwhile, a ‘Thank You March’ is currently being staged to honour firefighters in Knysna. Over 1 100 firefighters from across South Africa battled to contain the deadly fires. The blaze reportedly claimed the lives of two volunteer fighters last week.