Teams of workers were seen digging and laying cables in and around Cornubia for the connection of electricity to homes. Picture: Arthi Gopi/IOS
Durban - Tired of waiting for the eThekwini Municipality to act, a few residents at Cornubia have rallied together to help rebuild a family’s burnt home.

Three weeks ago, 57-year-old Ntombikhona Ntuli died trying to flee the fire which raged through the Cornubia home. The fire is believed to have been caused by a candle.

The family of eight had only moved into the unit at the low-cost development about two months before the fire, eager to start a new chapter in a proper home.

Ward committee member Dudu Phewu said she had been trying to help the family rebuild their lives.

“There has not been much contact with the family and the council, and the family does not know what to do next. But we are not going to wait, we have to do something.

“We have started to clean out the house, paint it and someone has donated a door for the burnt house. We will be trying to make it okay for them to live inside because where else can they go, what else can they do now?” said Phewu.

On the night of the fire, on April 20, Ntuli’s son, Sanele Nxumalo, 27, was woken by his mother’s screams for help. Ntuli, Nxumalo, his daughters Olwethu and Ntombifuthi, and his girlfriend Zama were all upstairs.

They all had to jump through the window to escape. Ntuli did not survive the jump, and Olwethu was pulled through the window by her father. She is still recovering from her burns at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital.

His sister, Nomthandazo, was also injured when she tried to jump.

Her two young sons escaped without injury.

The family recently buried their mother in Pietermaritzburg, and returned to Cornubia to nothing left of their new home.

Helping hands

“We have to help them in any way possible; these are still children with no mother to guide them. We can’t have them living in a home with no power, but they also need a place to live. Our biggest worry is people using candles when they want to keep warm,” said Phewu.

Recovering in her neighbour’s home, Nomthandazo was shy to speak, simply saying she was doing “okay”.

Residents, who did not want to be named, said they heard the city did not want to connect power to units before people were formally handed houses.

They were told this was to avoid “squatters” taking over units.

Residents were also shy to talk about “izinyoka”, electricity cable thieves, as apparently many houses were connecting power illegally in what is meant to be a housing development with proper electricity connections.

Phewu said, however, that the eThekwini Municipality was working on electricity connections since the fire.

“They are doing some work but they need to do more,” she said.

Tozi Mthethwa, eThekwini spokesperson, said the unit which was damaged in the fire was not suitable for occupation at this time.

“The unit will be refurbished as soon as possible. The roll-out of eThekwini Municipality’s extensive electrification programme is under way across various parts of the municipality, due to the increasing demand for electricity in our city. However, the municipality will speed up the electrification of all households which have not yet been reached, including those in Cornubia,” said Mthethwa.

She added that social workers and allocations staff were assessing the situation and looking for ways to assist the family. “The municipality is also looking into arranging emergency training on fire safety,” she said.

Phewu appealed for assistance in furnishing the Nxumalos’ home because all their furniture had been burnt.

“If people want to donate, they can contact me on 0715114742, and I will direct them to the Nxumalos,” she said.