Cape Town - Residents in the Joe Slovo informal settlement impacted by the devastating fire over the weekend have started rebuilding their shacks before the City’s Solid Waste Department could clean up the fire debris.
In all, 767 victims had sought refuge with family members and friends while others had been sleeping outside since the fire broke out after 5pm on Saturday and ravaged 260 shacks. The cause of the fire remains unknown.
Ward councillor Thembelani Nyamakazi said since the fire broke out they had been inundated with questions by the victims about the roll-out of fire kits.
“The people, despite no assistance from the government, are trying to normalise the situation, dusting themselves off. The provision of rebuilding kits has been the burning question which we had to contend with as this was stopped by the City, and until now we are not privy to its rationale.
“This does not sit well with the fire victims. If this was a decision from the national government, I think it has to be reviewed. Most of the victims are unable to buy new building materials and we understand that others went as far as taking loans to purchase rebuilding materials,” he said.
Nyamakazi said they were encouraged by the response from numerous local organisations since the outbreak of the fire.
“We must also take blame as a community. Some people take for granted the damage that can be caused by someone drunk attempting to cook, which is the most likely cause of these fires,” Nyamakazi said.
One of the victims, Thembani Manzini, said they could not wait for the clean-up as some of them had been sleeping outside. He said they also feared losing their stands should the place be cleaned up, which he said would be the case for those out of the province for the Easter weekend.
Councillor Zahid Badroodien, who acted as mayor over the weekend, said when he visited the area on Saturday morning, together with councillors and community leaders, the fire victims were informed that the Solid Waste Department would come in to remove the debris after the registrations of affected individuals was completed and the sorting of potentially reusable material was done.
“It does seem that the community preferred not to wait for this process and initiated the rebuild before the debris removal could be done. When I visited yesterday (Sunday) evening, the number of structures rebuilt was at an advanced stage,” he said.
Meanwhile, local organisations have rolled out humanitarian relief to the fire victims, which includes meals, clothes, mattresses and toiletries.
Gift of the Givers spokesperson Ali Sablay said the organisation immediately provided humanitarian assistance in the form of hot meals, water, bread, baby care packs, blankets, mattresses, and detergent packs.
“We will be on the ground for the next three days to assist the community. We will be doing further assessments as the week goes on and once the people are all registered and rested, Sassa will then come in to take of further relief to these victims.
“We are grateful to the firefighters and the disaster management for the efficient response,” Salby said.
Meals on Wheels community services manager Mluleki Mxothwa said they were alternating with the Gift of the Givers to provide hot meals to the victims and said that clothing has been offered. Mxothwa said counselling would be offered when needed.
In his turn as acting mayor, Eddie Andrews said the City’s water and sanitation department would deliver 10 chemical toilets to the site later this week. Andrews said despite emergency shelter being made available at a local church hall, the demand was low, as most individuals preferred to stay with friends or relatives.
He said donation points had been made available where residents who have the means can donate blankets, non-perishable food, disposable nappies, baby food, sanitary items, and other materials.
In a statement, the EFF in the metro said it was sad that 28 years into “democracy”, black people still lived in congested squatter camps without proper electricity.
The party called for immediate intervention by the City to provide temporary houses for the displaced people.
“Langa fire must be given the serious attention and the urgency it deserves as we are about to enter winter. We also call upon the private sector to intervene and provide a donation to the people of Langa as they would if the fire occurred in suburb areas,” it said.