Aerial shot of the homes destroyed in the Khayelitsha fire. Picture: City of Cape Town.
When forest fires destroyed swathes of land and multimillion-rand homes in Knysna a year ago, the response from authorities and citizens was immediate.

As it should be, because more than 1000 homes were destroyed and seven people died. The civic action was phenomenal. Communities rallied; supplies, clothing, food, and other aid rushed in.

At the weekend, nearly 2700 people were left destitute after their homes were destroyed in two separate fires.

In the early hours on Saturday, a fire in Silver Town, Khayelitsha, left one person dead and destroyed 342 homes. More than 1300 people were affected. Early the next day, less than 10km away, Kosovo informal settlement in Philippi went up in flames, destroying 500 homes and leaving around 1400 people destitute. Where is the public response to this tragedy?

We know there are those who question why people “choose” to live in squalor without access to basic services. The answer is simple - it is a reality foisted upon them. There are pupils who are unable to study because their books went up in flames. Mothers are unable to shield their babies from the harsh sun because their homes are no more. All this is a direct result of the Cape’s severe housing crisis.

As this newspaper reported on Monday, the City over-recovered R732million in electricity tariffs and punitive water charges.

We’re not asking for much, City elders, maybe just set aside R100m or R200m of that windfall for much-needed housing?

* Lance Witten is the live editor for the Cape Argus.

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