One person was transported to hospital following the fire at the municipal flats and the municipality confirmed that it is investigating the incident, which caused extensive damage to several flats in the block earlier this week.
Several tenants had to search for alternative accommodation and while some was made available at a municipal flat complex in Free State Road, Beaconsfield, a few kilometres from Krisant Court, this rundown accommodation, including broken windows, complete with crime scene tape, and rooms that have been stripped and vandalised, left community members feeling snubbed and neglected by local government.
One Krisant Court resident, Neil Meretenton, said on Tuesday that his sister had been a tenant of the municipal flats until her recent death.
However, the resident said that unpaid rent of nearly R100 000 had left the family in debt and while efforts had been made to reduce this outstanding amount, an estimated R70 000 was still due.
“When my sister died, she owed about R90 000,” Meretenton said on Tuesday.
“I was hoping to hold onto the flat and expressed my intention to pay the outstanding amount off. I even invested R20 000 to bring down the amount as much as possible.
“Now, after the fire on Monday caused extensive damage to several flats, including ours, we have been told that we can move into a rundown flat they have available or we have to fend for ourselves.”
Standing outside the property earmarked for their occupation, Meretenton highlighted his family’s major cause for concern.
“The available flat has no water or electricity,” he explained. “The windows are broken and all the fittings, pipes and cables have been stolen.
“The place is in an absolutely shocking condition and isn’t fit for human occupation. Yet we were told, in no uncertain terms, to accept what is on offer or to fend for ourselves.
“Everything is burned and we have very little left.
“We know of flats that are standing empty but are being kept locked and can’t understand why we are expected to move in here when there are other options.”
While the bulk of the destruction was limited to the unit where the fire broke out and its immediate neighbours, tenants throughout the complex of 32 units were still tallying the likely costs of repairs on Tuesday, with smoke, soot and water damage evident in many of the units.
“If you look around here, you will notice that there isn’t a fire extinguisher in sight,” one of the Krisant Court residents pointed out.
“The argument that this is because they would be stolen doesn’t really have much substance to it either.
“If this were genuinely the case, why not then put an extinguisher in every unit? If these had been available, then the fire could easily and quickly have been contained and the damage would never have reached our flat.
“All this could so easily have been avoided, but instead of the municipality and our ward councillor coming to our aid, we were offered no sympathy and were made to feel like nothing.”
Another resident from a neighbouring flat agreed, adding that while demands for outstanding money were a regular occurrence, tenants’ calls for assistance with housing and community concerns in the area generally fell on deaf ears.
“There were officials here this morning (yesterday) but they came with bad attitudes and told us that we would have to cover the cost of the repairs ourselves,” she said.
“We really feel this is completely unfair as the fire had nothing to do with us yet it has now become our problem.
“With this week’s disruptions to the water supply in the city, it took the fire department ages to get here and by the time they arrived the damage was far worse than it needed to be.
“We are willing to do the clean up and repairs ourselves. All we ask is for some assistance with the cost of materials. Unfortunately, they won’t even give us that much.”
Spokesperson for the Sol Plaatje Municipality, Sello Matsie, said that the matter was being investigated in the hopes of finding an amicable resolution.
“We are in the process of establishing the facts pertaining to the fire and what exactly happened,” Matsie said. “Once we have concluded our investigation and evaluation, we will be considering our options.”