A toddler sits among burnt iron sheets left by a fire which raged through the Wetlands Informal Settlement in Masiphumelele. Picture: Neil Baynes

Residents whose shacks were burnt to the ground in Masiphumelele on Monday refused to move to alternative land while the City of Cape Town levelled the area before they rebuilt their shacks.

The City asked residents to wait before rebuilding their shacks so the informal settlement could have some sort of street system to enable emergency services to move freely in case of another fire.

Emergency services could not get to the fire because of the density of the informal settlement.

After inspecting the fire, Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato told a gathering of local community leaders that only 600 shacks could be accommodated in the area and that alternative land would be provided to others.

This sparked anger among some residents, who wanted to know what criteria would be used to identify the 600.

The residents wanted Plato to order that those who were not among the 600 be allowed to place their shacks on an open space adjacent to where the fire occurred.

“We will discuss that later,” Plato said but residents said they wanted answers immediately.

Akhona Mangaliso, 42, said the “people are refusing to stop rebuilding their shacks unless Mayor Plato gives them surety that they have a right to use the open land”.

Mangaliso said people were afraid the city might destroy their shacks if there was no written land-usage agreement.

Resident Nobesuthu Mntuyedwa, 45, who lost everything in the fire, said she hoped to be part of the first 600.

“The other land would take longer because we have to wait for the government to approve it first. If I wait, where would my children stay?

City risk disaster management spokesman Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said: “Despite the request by the city to clear and level the site before construction commences, the community proceeded with the erection of structures.

”This has hampered the recovery operations and the layout for emergency vehicular access routes within the informal settlement following the fire.” - Cape Times