Cape Town - Discrepancies in the number of victims affected by the Easter weekend fires in Joe Slovo have been flagged as the bottleneck for the provision of emergency funding from the National Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Department.
This emerged during a site visit on Tuesday by Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Deputy Minister Pam Tshwete, who held discussions with the affected residents and confirmed that the City of Cape Town had applied for the emergency funds.
Initially, it was reported that the number of affected residents stood close to 1 200, but on Tuesday the City’s disaster risk management confirmed that 260 structures were destroyed in the fire, affecting 767 individuals.
However, data collated by the community leaders on the ground indicated that 437 households burnt down, affecting more than 500 individuals.
Ward councillor Lwazi Phakade said the City’s numbers were not a reflection of the situation on the ground, adding that there were people that had not been accounted for.
Sub-council 15 chairperson Angus McKenzie said the national department and the City’s plan of action was not just to take care of the current situation but working to prevent a repeat in the future.
“The challenge is that the numbers were collated since the fire took place, during which a fair amount of people went out to seek help for equipment to rebuild and some people had travelled to the Eastern Cape for the long weekend.
“So over the next two or three days, those people have returned and are going to be tallied up, so that there is a similarity between the numbers of the community leaders and disaster management,” he said.
McKenzie said the solid waste department was clearing out the debris while electricity assessment was undertaken, as well as the return of ablution facilities.
Tshwete, who criticised the City for not providing sustainable housing, said the department was waiting for official numbers for it to release the emergency funds for the victims to rebuild.
“When compared to all other provinces, the Western Cape has proven to be prone to informal settlement fires.
“We cannot be proud of providing victims of informal settlements with corrugated sheets and poles, instead of sustainable housing.
“We get these disasters most of the time in the province, but they always find us not ready.
“We are working together with the provincial government in making sure that we build RDP houses for the vulnerable. We should not have neglected areas, people must be given proper houses, even if it’s a shack, it must be built properly, with proper roads to ensure access, water and sanitation,” she said.
Her visit was joined by Premier Alan Winde and Western Cape Human Settlements MEC Tertuis Simmers who expressed concern for those affected by the fire, but came to the City’s defence, and commended their response.
“My heart goes out to all those families affected by the fires in Langa over the Easter weekend. No family should have to suffer such an unimaginable loss, particularly over a period marked by joy and togetherness,” Winde said.
“When visiting [the area], it was deeply upsetting to see the toll taken on this community but, also encouraging to see the significant measures in place to support those in their time of need.”
Premier Winde added that he is pleased to hear that all affected by the fire were accounted for. Simmers shared similar sentiments and said that manner in which the City of Cape Town responded “has to be lauded, as there could’ve been further and more severe devastation”.
Some of the measures taken by the City of Cape Town in response to the fires include:
- The Disaster Risk Management Centre and Informal Settlements Management have completed the registration process, confirming that 260 structures were destroyed in the fire, affecting 767 individuals.
- An emergency shelter was made available at a local church hall, however, the demand has been relatively low as affected individuals are largely choosing to stay with friends or family.
Simmers added that he was grateful to the various organisations, entities and individuals that have either assisted the City of Cape Town or made donations.
“We’re on standby should the City require any assistance or further support, whether this might be technical or any other.”
Donation points have also been made available to help those affected. At these points, donations of blankets, non-perishable food, disposable nappies, baby food, sanitary items and other materials can be delivered.
The following drop off points are available for donations:
- The Urban-Rural Development, City of Cape Town Housing Department, corner of Langalibalele Drive and Lerotholi Avenue, Langa. You can contact 083 521 0328.
- Mustadafin Foundation, corner of Heide and Antelope Court, Bridgetown. You can contact 076 422 1667.
“During times of crisis such as these, I am always overcome by the generosity of the people of our province. I want to appeal to that generosity again and call on those Western Cape to play their part and assist those in need where possible,” Winde concluded.
The Anglican Church, through the Patrice Motsepe Foundation, would offer school uniforms to the 300 affected children, while Sassa is expected to provide temporary IDs to the victims.