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Pavement occupiers in Observatory blame the City of Cape Town for recent shack fire

Two shacks were destroyed in the fire after a candle fell. Picture: Supplied

Two shacks were destroyed in the fire after a candle fell. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 12, 2022

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Cape Town - A group of people occupying a pavement next to the Groote Schuur Hospital in Observatory has blamed the City’s refusal to provide them with basic services for a fire that broke out on Saturday.

While no one died from the incident, two shacks were destroyed and two residents sustained minor injuries and a toddler was hospitalised for inhaling smoke. The fire started after a candle from one of the shacks fell after 9pm.

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Three of the residents lost all their belongings, including stationery and clothes for their six children between the ages of 1 year and 19 years.

The Singabalapha members occupied an abandoned old-age home called Arcadia Place in 2019 and after they were evicted moved to the pavement in Observatory.

After years of living on the pavement in tents, the residents had now put up shacks complete with a tank for storing water.

They are embroiled in a court battle with the City. Last month the City appealed a high court ruling which interdicted it from evicting the residents.

Singabalapha Informal Settlement chairperson Barbara Vuza said as residents they had written to the City requesting access to water and electricity for their homes numerous times but with no response. She said instead the City had been intentionally delaying the provision of services by appealing the court interdict.

“This is something that the City is supposed to provide to every single household. According to the Constitution and various Constitutional Court judgments, the municipality is legally required to provide access to basic services,” she said.

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Vuza said electrifying the shacks would not cost the City substantial amount of money as she said there were already electricity power lines and substations in the area.

“They just need to extend access and install electricity boxes. All other homes in the area have access to these and other basic services. But the City is refusing to provide these,” Vuza said.

She said the incident had also further exacerbated the need for formal housing for the displaced residents.

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The City said it would be able to respond today.

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Cape Argus

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