Fury after the flames

By Natasha Prince Time of article published Dec 27, 2013

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Cape Town - Protesters burnt tyres and destroyed traffic lights in Robert Sobukwe Drive in a stand-off with police and city officials over the provision of building starter kits for people left homeless by Monday’s fire in Valhalla Park.

Late on Thursday police and Metro police were seen picking up stones thrown at them and hurling them back into the crowd.

Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut said he could not comment without seeing the pictures, but if it was clear that identifiable members were using excessive force against people, they would investigate.

Residents were outraged on Thursday when, instead of the containers they had expected from the City of Cape Town, a truck arrived with the starter kits of corrugated iron and wood.

A resident told the Cape Argus that the community became “aggressive” and started burning tyres because they were not happy. Police fired rubber bullets.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith claimed the protest action was political.

Earlier in the day, the city announced it was accelerating plans to upgrade the devastated settlement.

It is estimated that 350 shacks and eight council rental units were destroyed in the blaze.

Twenty-three people were treated for smoke inhalation, including nine firefighters.

On Thursday, some residents were back at the site, chopping up burnt-out cars and collecting scrap metal.

Five-year-old twins Kashiefah and Ashiefah Paul were sleeping in a drawer in a small structure built by their mother, Naziema Paul, and her husband on the site of their former home.

Paul said she would not move, saying she had lived there for eight years and had endured many hardships.

The twins needed new clothes, but none of the donations received had been the right size for them.

Paul said they had opted not to go to the community hall where fire victims were being sheltered.

“We will sleep here because we are used to fighting our own battles.”

The process of rebuilding homes began on Thursday with the installation of water pipes, the levelling of land, and the pegging-out of plots.

Building kits were to be distributed in the afternoon, and the first group were expected to move in on Friday.

Smith said the city had planned to service the land before the fire. Those plans would now be speeded up.

The land would be serviced, and beneficiaries could build on the plots once they could afford to do so.

Smith said anti-land invasion units were on standby to deter looters.

Densil Faure, an engineer in the Department of Human Settlements, said they had a register of those living on plots in the area.

“So we have a handle on who the beneficiaries are,” he said.

Pick n Pay has donated R20 000 to help the victims, along with R10 000 from Jamiatul Ulama South Africa. Food, blankets, toiletries and household items were also donated.

An ANC delegation which visited the site said that, in addition to the immediate disaster relief, the community needed sustainable help, including dignified living conditions and proper houses.

Led by Marius Fransman, ANC chairman in the Western Cape, the delegation said it “saw the need for a resident-led committee”.

“There is so much empty land in the rich and leafy suburbs of Cape Town, yet our people are forced to live in squalor and are in a state of constant risk of such fires,” the delegation said.

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Cape Argus

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