Cape Town - A petrol bomb attack during a gang raid has been blamed for the fire in Valhalla Park which engulfed 350 shacks, and left 1 500 people homeless on Monday.
On Friday residents at the site claimed that members of the Outlaws gang were searching for members of their rivals, the Rude Boys.
When they couldn’t find any of the members, they allegedly threw a petrol bomb at a shack believed to be home to a Rude Boys member.
The fire spread and engulfed the shacks as residents frantically scrambled to save what little they could.
On Friday the smell of smoke still hung heavy in the air, as resident Brendan Meyer, now living in a makeshift tent made of a few fabric sheets, wood and corrugated plastic, claimed that Outlaws gangsters had threatened to burn down the homes of anyone who tried to rebuild.
“Most people are sure they started the fire, but everyone knows of the Outlaws’ threat to start another fire. People haven’t really tried to rebuild again, although I don’t know if it’s because of the threat or (if) they expected the City of Cape Town to provide new homes.”
The fire and the damage have ignited a political spat between the DA and the ANC, after police were stoned on Thursday while monitoring a group of fire victims who burnt tyres and smashed traffic lights on Robert Sobukwe Drive.
Police used rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, but also hurled the stones and bricks back at the victims.
Speaking at the site on Friday, ANC provincial leader Marius Fransman said the chaos was the result of a “broken promise” to provide temporary containers for the victims.
“The victims were expecting containers, but instead they got starter kits. For years these people have been waiting for homes. Their desperation and frustration with the starter kits boiled over and led to the protest. The City of Cape Town must get its act together and help these people,” he said.
He also threatened legal action against JP Smith, mayco member for safety and security, over allegations he said Smith made that the ANC had incited residents to attack police.
Smith countered that he would welcome any legal action by Fransman, and would “expose Fransman and his cronies”.
“The city, while accelerating its plans to service the land and build on the plots once they can afford to do so, never promised to deliver containers as it is national policy to issue the starter kits. Yet only the Western Cape does this.
“This was most likely just another attempt by the ANC to rile up the fire victims. I encourage Fransman to pursue legal action and we will bring him to face justice,” Smith said.
On the gang fight allegations by the fire victims, Smith said any evidence as to the source of the fire had been destroyed by those who had tried to move back on to the land.
“According to an investigation by the Fire and Rescue Services Department, no trace of the source was left after some people tried to move back on to the land, and it would be virtually impossible to identity the cause. However, we’ve had our own allegations of arson, and are following these up,” he said.
Fire victim Jacques Haddon said he could do nothing now but look at the piece of land that had once been his home.
“I lost everything, my clothes, furniture and even my dog.
“People are getting sicker by the day, and while we appreciate all the help from everyone, we need real homes.”
The victims have received help from Pick n Pay, which donated R20 000, along with R10 000 from Jamiatul Ulama South Africa.
The Social Security Agency of South Africa (Sassa) distributed 350 care packages and is assisting with the replacement of destroyed documents.
The Gift of the Givers Foundation also donated 350 mattresses and new clothes.