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30 lions left to die after suffering severe burns at Free State farm (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES)

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Staff Reporter

A captive lion breeder in the Glen farming area, just outside Bloemfontein, is being sued by the SPCA for animal negligence after 30 lions suffered severe burns following a veld fire and had to be put down to save them from continued pain.

The farmer cannot be named at this stage as the matter is yet to be heard in court.

SPCA Bloemfontein senior inspector Reinet Meyer told The Free Stater by telephone that the owner showed very little care for the lions and they had to take the legal route to access the farm.

“He didn’t seem to be interested in the lions anymore,” said a concerned Meyer.

“Maybe it’s because they are of no value to him since captive lion breeding and the exporting of lion bones is no longer allowed in the country,” she added.

In May this year, the government indicated that it would ban captive lion facilities and the trade in lion bones.

This means the commercial use of captive lions for trophy hunting and the sale of their body parts would be outlawed.

Independent estimates say between 8 000 and 12 000 lions were held in captive facilities in South Africa at the peak of the trade.

Meyer said in an earlier statement they were shocked at the state of the lions when they finally obtained a warrant to enter the premises.

She said five days after the fire, the owner had failed to administer any medical treatment.

“What we found shocked us to the bone,” said Meyer.

“As we entered the lion camps, we could only see the destruction left behind by the torturing flames. We arrived at the lion enclosures and our hearts broke . . .

“We saw that the lions couldn’t escape the blazing fires and the inhalation of smothering fumes were evident. The lions didn’t move. They all laid in one spot with their paws turned upwards. Their fragile bodies were burnt, and their faces carried the devastating scars of the flames (days earlier).”

Meyer said three male lions in one of the camps couldn’t stand at all as they kept collapsing each time they tried to get up.

“The paw pads on the other lions were burned off and they had large blisters underneath the paws,” she said.

“Blood was oozing from the wounds. The lions’ faces were burnt and they couldn’t eat because of blisters in their mouths.

“The lions had severe smoke inhalation damage. The damage was so severe to the lungs that the lions started to drown in their blood.  The heat of the fire caused a lion’s eyes to burst.”

The camps, according to Meyer, were in a horrible condition.

There was no electric fence, the structure poles were burnt down and the fence was hanging on a thread with open gaps and holes.

“These lions could have easily escaped, but not even one escaped. They were too broken, too weak,” she said.

“We quickly realised that the owner didn’t care about the lions anymore. He was not willing to invest financially in them and had spent nothing to ensure the welfare of these cats. The owner no longer made provisions for food for the lions.”

“If cattle or any wildlife animal died in the area the farmworkers were sent to collect the meet to feed the lions. They would also get a few dead chickens from a nearby poultry farm.”

Meyer believes the lions went without food for several days.

She said a single cow could hardly feed 59 lions and the three tigers at the farm.

The chickens were hardly enough for just one enclosure.

“These lions were underweight with a very weak and low body score. One could see the rib, pelvic and vertebrae bones,” said Meyer.

“I have never been this angry in my 30 years at the Bloemfontein SPCA . . . misuse of our animals for entertainment like hunting, bone trade, poaching, circus tricks, cub petting or keeping them in zoos or as pets . . . must stop.

“We should leave these animals to be free in the wild without any human contact . . . these lions were captive, and they burned, these lions were never free.”

She said the camps were too small for the lions and were littered with faeces and old carcasses because no one enters the enclosures to clean.

In one incident, three of the lions mutilated and killed their brother within five minutes and ate him because they were and are starving.

The SPCA is now appealing for support so they can look after the remaining lions as well as neglected animals elsewhere.

Well-wishers can deposit funds into:

ABSA Savings Account.

Account name: BFN Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Account number: 927 910 2644

Branch code: 632 005

Reference: Lions

Or they can send an SMS to 42646 with the word Bloemspca (SMS cost R30).

Alternatively, visit www.bloemfonteinspca.co.za and click on the donate button to make an easy payment – reference: Lions.

HORROR . . . The SPCA was shocked at the state of the lions

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Ngwathe pays Eskom to fix damaged line

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BLACKOUT . . . The Ngwathe electrical network tripped on Friday and damaged Eskom’s equipment due to overloading

Ngwathe Local Municipality in the northern Free State has paid R1.1-million to Eskom so it can repair damages to the power line in the area caused by overloading.

Eskom provincial spokesperson Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg said in a statement the payment was made on Monday morning and work to restore supplies to Parys and Vredefort has started.

“Repairs to the Eskom equipment will now commence,” said Van Rensburg.

“Based on the assessments of the damage, supply to Ngwathe should be restored by midnight tonight,” she added.

The spokesperson however said the initial repairs were focusing on the hot connections and will only be temporary to assist communities.

Another outage will be scheduled to repair the transformer bushings that were also damaged during the overloading incident.

The Ngwathe electrical network tripped on Friday and damaged Eskom’s equipment due to overloading.

“Since 2018, Eskom has warned Ngwathe that their continued exceedance of their Notified Maximum Demand (NMD) – the contracted amount of electricity supplied by Eskom to the Municipality – will eventually result in damage to the Eskom network and that the municipality needs to apply for an upgrade in their NMD.

“In August 2021 and in April 2022, Eskom informed the municipality that any damage to the Eskom network that is caused by the municipality’s negligence, will be at the municipality’s cost.

“The municipality agreed to this condition and, although they were well informed and aware of the risks, they did not take the necessary precautions or made sufficient efforts to upgrade their NMD,” Van Rensburg explained.

Following the incident, Eskom insisted on the municipality making an upfront payment as it is one of the municipalities in the province sitting with a huge debt to the national power utility.

As at end June, Ngwathe’s overdue debt to Eskom totalled R1.89 billion.

Eskom says this debt continues to grow as current accounts are not paid in full.

“Ngwathe’s non-adherence to payment conditions and negligence in protecting the power system, jeopardises Eskom’s financial sustainability as well as the security of supply to the residents of towns such as Parys and Vredefort.

“Supply to Ngwathe will be restored to the capacity as per the contracted NMD.

“Risks of overloading and consequent damage remain, and it is imperative that the municipality invests in upgrading its supply,” according to the power company. – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung electricity tariffs up

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POWER TARIFFS UP . . . Local power distributor Centlec has hiked electricity charges

Electricity tariffs in Mangaung have gone up by 7.47 percent.

In a statement released on Thursday night, local power distributor Centlec said the increase was due to come into effect at midnight on July 1 following approval by the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa.

The increase will cover the period July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023.

“A guideline increase of 7.47 percent on electricity tariffs for Centlec was therefore approved with effect from the 1st of July 2022 for the 2022/23 financial year,” read part of the brief statement.

It said a more detailed outline of the increases will be announced soon. – Staff Reporter

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CUT students arrested for protesting against exams

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DISTURBANCE AT CAMPUS . . . Five students protesting against exams at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein have been arrested

Police have arrested five students from the Central University of Technology (CUT) for public violence after they embarked on an unsanctioned protest against the institution’s decision to have the mid-year exams conducted in person at its two campuses in Bloemfontein and Welkom starting this Thursday.

The exams are set to run until July 20.

The fracas follows an announcement by CUT acting vice-chancellor and principal Professor Alfred Ngowi on Wednesday in which he stated the exams would take place physically at the two campuses as scheduled.

Ngowi said a detailed discussion about online exams at the Welkom campus concluded that it would not be feasible to conduct online exams because circumstances have changed regarding the COVID-19 restrictions and that it was also against the policy of the university.

“CUT is a full-contact institution and not a distance learning institution and therefore does not have the authority to accredit examinations that are not done under CUT’s status as a full-contact institution,” said Ngowin in a recorded video.

Ngowi told the students that academic assessment is one of the important building blocks of their qualifications.

He warned the students against disrupting the exams saying they would face disciplinary action as such action will be illegal.

“The unreliability of the power supply may have unintended disruptive effects,” he said.

“The COVID-19 restrictions which necessitated virtual classes and virtual assessments have all been suspended and the various accrediting bodies to which CUT is affiliated may not accredit online assessments.

“Therefore, we will proceed with physical assessments.

“Management has made all necessary preparations for the smooth running of the mid-year assessments, which have been communicated to all students.

“Therefore, any student who plans to disrupt the physical examinations on our campuses must be aware of the legal and disciplinary consequences.

“In addition, the CUT management has put several measures in place to protect the constitutional rights of all our students who are prepared for and prefer to sit for physical assessments.

“Students must be aware that any disruptions of the planned and scheduled assessments are illegal and unlawful, and students who act outside the law will have to face the consequences of their actions.

“Students further need to note that failing the upcoming academic assessments will directly impact their NSFAS funding status.

“No further funding will be available to NSFAS-funded students who fail the assessments or fail to take the upcoming assessments.”

But, in a statement, members of the South African Student Congress (SASCO) at the university argued that since all assessments had taken place online due to the COVID-19 restrictions, “it is only normal that the exams take place online as well”.

SASCO also argued that some students had not received their allowances from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and it would therefore be impossible for them to write their exams in a physical setting.

But Ngowi addressed the matter earlier in the same video: “As previously communicated through the Student Representative Council, NSFAS-funded students who still have unresolved challenges with their accommodation are encouraged to make written submissions to the relevant faculty deans in that regard.”

Park Road police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Thabo Covane said members of Public Order Police Unit arrested five male students for public violence at the CUT’s Bloemfontein campus on Thursday morning.

He said the group of protesting students was warned by the operational commander to disperse within a given time as they were contravening the conditions stipulated in an issued court order but refused to do so.

“The protesting students became violent and started throwing stones and bottles at the police and the security officers,” said Covane.

“The police used stun grenades to disperse the crowd. The other group ran into King Edward Street and blocked traffic by placing stones on the road.

“Police then arrested the five students with ages ranging from 18 to 22 years.”

The arrested students are expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on Monday facing charges of public violence and contravening a court order. – Staff Reporter

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