No foul play from staff suspected in Kruger Park fires


Management has ruled out any suspicion of staff involvement after Kruger National Park experienced its second fire in less than a week.

On Monday the park took to Twitter to announce a fire at the Berg en Dal restaurant, near a rest camp. Last week's fire also took place near a rest camp, gutting two buildings including a shop.

Spokesperson for state company SANParks, which manages the Kruger National Park, Reynold Tlakudi says both fires are still under investigation.

"We are still investigating what caused the fire, and of course yesterday as we were still trying to deal with the aftermath. We had another fire at Berg en Dal restaurant which burnt down as well. We are investigating both fires and we are grateful that there have been no fatalities. These fires remain a great concern now that we have experienced two, we are really working to get to the bottom of this."

According to Tlakudi, the TV hall at Letaba Camp is usually used by staff, but given that the first fire started at night when no staff were on the premises, it was implausible to suspect any staff were involved.

"We don't have any plans to question staff members about the fire and we have not been given any reason to suspect any involvement of our staff in these incidences."

He moved to assure the public that the investigation was well under way.

Tlakudi also moved to quash rumours that staff have been unhappy with management at the Kruger Park and have taken to using guest quarters without permission.

In August, SANParks reportedly threatened to file racism charges against two former guests at Kruger after they allegedly make racist remarks about their staff members on Facebook. The pair apparently took issue with staff living in guest lodges.

According to Tlakudi, it was Kruger management which decided to temporarily house staff in guest quarters as an arrangement between the two parties. He said it was not the result of some feud between staff and management.

"It is not true at all," he said. "Staff are using the tourism accommodation as part of an approved plan by management.

"Remember that we are now considering better staff accommodation options to ensure the necessary social distancing protocols are met. It is a big lie that they are there of their own accord and we want to encourage anybody spreading these rumours to please stop."

Earlier this month, DA MP James Lorimer penned a statement calling several developments at SANParks into question. He announced plans to parliament and SANParks senior management to explain why, among other things, staff were living at guest quarters and whether this was blocking guests from getting accommodation at Kruger. He questioned why the park required extensive refurbishments and why much of the park's guest accommodation was not available.

Simnikiweh@citizen.co.za

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