This Chapter sets out the purpose for which this Act is passed. It defines important words and terms used in the Act and guides its interpretation.

1. (1) The purpose of this Act is to prevent and combat veld, forest and mountain fires throughout the Republic.
(2) The Act provides for a variety of institutions, methods and practices for achieving the purpose.

2. (1) In this Act, unless inconsistent with the context—
    (i) “chief fire officer” means the person appointed in terms of section 5 of the Fire Brigade Services Act, 1987 (Act No. 99 of 1987), to be in charge of a service or designated service;
    (ii) "community" means a coherent, social group of persons with interests or rights in a particular area of land which the members have or exercise communally in terms of an agreement, custom or law;
    (iii) “Department” means the national Department which has responsibility for the management of veldfires;
    (iv) “designated service” means a service recognised by the Minister for Provincial Affairs and Constitutional Development in terms of section 4 of the Fire Brigade Services Act, 1987 (Act No. 99 of 1987);
    (v) “Director-General” means the Director-General of the Department;
    (vi) “fire” includes a veldfire;
    (vii) “fire danger” means the chance of a veldfire occurring or of an existing veldfire getting out of control and, if so, the anticipated rate at which, and intensity with which, it will burn;
    (viii) “fire protection association” means a fire protection association registered in terms of section 4;
    (ix) “fire protection officer” means a person referred to in sections 5 and 6;
    (x) “forest officer” means a forest officer designated or appointed under section 65 of the National Forests Act, 1998;
    (xi) “Minister” means the Minister to whom the President assigns responsibility for veldfires in terms of section 91(2) of the Constitution;
    (xii) “municipality” means a local council, a metropolitan council, a metropolitan local council, a representative council, a rural council or a district council as defined in section 10B of the Local Government Transition Act, 1993 (Act No. 209 of 1993), and any successor to such a council;
    (xiii) "owner” has its common law meaning and includes—
      (a) a lessee or other person who controls the land in question in terms of a contract, testamentary document, law or order of a High Court;
      (b) in relation to land controlled by a community, the executive body of the community in terms of its constitution or any law or custom;
      (c) in relation to State land not controlled by a person contemplated in paragraph (a) or a community—
        (i) the Minister of the Government department or the member of the executive council of the provincial administration exercising control over that State land; or
        (ii) a person authorised by him or her; and
      (d) in relation to a local authority, the chief executive officer of the local authority or a person authorised by him or her;
    (xiv) “prescribe” means prescribe by regulation;
    (xv) “service” means a fire brigade service as defined in section 1 of the Fire Brigade Services Act, 1987 (Act No. 99 of 1987);
    (xvi) “State forest” means a State forest as defined in section 2 of the National Forests Act, 1998;
    (xvii) “State land” means land which vests in the national or a provincial government—
      (a) including land held in trust by the Minister of Land Affairs or the Ingonyama referred to in the KwaZulu Ingonyama Trust Act (KwaZulu Act No. 3 of 1994);
      (b) excluding land belonging to a local authority;
    (xviii) “the Act” or “this Act” means the National Veld and Forest Fire Act, 1998, and includes the regulations made under the Act;
    (xix) “veldfire” means a veld, forest or mountain fire.
(2) Words derived from the words defined have corresponding meanings, unless the context indicates otherwise.
(3) A reasonable interpretation of a provision which is consistent with the purpose of this Act must be preferred over an alternative interpretation which is not.
(4) Neither—
    (a) a reference to a duty to consult specific persons or authorities, nor
    (b) the absence of any reference to a duty to consult or give a hearing, in this Act exempts the official or authority exercising a power or performing a duty from the duty to proceed fairly in respect of all persons entitled to be heard.
(5) Where there is more than one owner in respect of the same land, the proper performance by one owner of a duty imposed in terms of this Act exempts the other owners from performing that duty.
(6) Explanatory notes, printed in bold italics at the commencement of Chapters, must not be used to interpret this Act.

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