Two months have passed since a multi-storey building in Johannesburg caught fire, killing more than 70 individuals who were inside at the time of the tragedy.
Many remember the night they were awakened by piercing cries and screams as scores of people battled to escape the burning structure. The building has turned into a barren space, which is a cold reminder to many who lost their loved ones in the fire.
Having left people displaced without clothes and food to eat, many residents were moved to different centres where organisations donated food and other essentials.
The Star yesterday visited one of the centres, Hofland Park Community Centre, and had a conversation with Siphiwe Ngcobo, who lost her 2-year-old baby in the fire. Ngcobo said they feel neglected because there has been no consistency in the centre since they got there.
“We have been here for quite some time now. But there has been no consistency in the food. We no longer get anything. Another pastor gave us food, but even yesterday, the whole day, we did not get anything. If you do not have money, you will not eat.
“I am concerned about my child, who is not going to school. While there is no direction, I was thinking of getting her into school. I did get her grey pants from the donations. It's better that she is not here because this place is not suitable for a child.”
She further said things have changed now, and despite getting many visitors from different organisations when the incident just happened, they no longer get anything.
She claimed that life has been an uphill battle since her loss, which has also affected her 5-year-old, who managed to escape the fire alive. Navigating the new environment has also been tough because they were never counselled after what happened, which still haunted them.
Another victim, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said her concern is her two children, particularly now that it seems like they are being chased away.
The centre is dominated by children and mothers who have lost hope of getting assistance since losing their homes.
The investigation into the Joburg fire is set to begin today (on October 26) while victims live in deplorable conditions amid fighting, drugs and poverty.
The inquiry will be presided over by Justice Sisi Khampepe and backed by lawyers Thulani Makhubela and Vuyelwa Mathilda Mabena.
While many are still reeling from this incident, a few days ago it was reported that two people died after a fire broke out at the Eloff Extension informal settlement in Selby, Johannesburg.
An estimated 30 structures were on fire when the City of Johannesburg’s emergency services got there on Saturday morning. This happened a few months after the city was rocked by a gas explosion that left many injured and displaced at Lillian Ngoyi Street (formerly Bree Street).
Scores of people were injured by the incident, and there was one reported fatality, while many revealed that they lived in fear of what would happen next.
In July, 17 people were reported to have died at the Angelo informal settlement in Boksburg from fumes of a toxic gas presumed to be linked to illegal mining. Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi, who visited the scene, said that the province was under siege by illegal miners.
“Preliminary investigations have revealed that the nitrate oxide was being used by illegal miners in the area,” Lesufi said.