A security company employed by the City of Cape Town has been on the site in Masiphumelele, making sure there was no rebuilding of shacks.The area is marked for temporary structures after more than 1000 shacks were burnt by fire a few days before Christmas.The residents currently have no place to sleep, some sleep in the open while others have been squatting with friends and relatives. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
A security company employed by the City of Cape Town has been on the site in Masiphumelele, making sure there was no rebuilding of shacks.The area is marked for temporary structures after more than 1000 shacks were burnt by fire a few days before Christmas.The residents currently have no place to sleep, some sleep in the open while others have been squatting with friends and relatives. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Fire victims struggle to pick up the pieces

By Asanda Sokanyile Time of article published Jan 9, 2021

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Cape Town - Weeks of uncertainty and sleeping out in the cold are set to continue for fire victims in Masiphumelele and Taiwan informal settlement in Site C, who are still without shelter.

While plans to rebuild homes of the affected Masiphumelele residents continue, the government remains mum on what is to happen in the Taiwan informal settlement.

The blaze in Masiphumelele razed 1 000 structures on December 17, leaving at least 6 000 people displaced.

While about 500 people were displaced by the Taiwan fire.

Residents of theTaiwan Informal settlement in Site C, Khayelitsha were rebuilding their shacks after a fire that ravaged their homes on New Year's Day. Leon Lestrade. African News Agency (ANA)

After many weeks of empty promises, the residents of Masiphumelele are hopeful that they will have shelter by the weekend.

But a sceptical Xolile Mzondi said he would not hold his breath as frustration and anger has built up following the empty promises.

“Some of us have been sleeping outside, we have children, women and sick people here but the government does not seem to care.

“They came here last year making all sorts of empty promises.

“We spent both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day outside.

“Schools will open soon, how do you prepare for school when you have no home?”

Mzondi said politicians visited the site almost every week since the fire, but nothing positive came of their visits.

“While some have found shelter with friends and relatives in the area, others sleep in the open field or on the road they once called home with no shelter to protect them from the night’s cold or even criminals who lurk in the dark.

Mayco member for human settlements Malusi Booi said an immediate solution for the residents was under way.

“The City is committed to ensuring the immediate solutions for the Masiphumelele community are implemented as instructed, as quickly possible.

“Much more work remains to be done at Masiphumelele and we urge the community to please be patient while the City, Western Cape Government and national government starts with the implementation on the ground within this week,” he said.

The City has confirmed that R32 million has been made available to provide temporary structures, water and sanitation facilities to affected residents of Masiphumelele.

Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu confirmed the department's commitment adding that all spheres of government and other departments will work together to ensure dignity is restored.

“We have decided to work as a cluster, including the Department of Social Development so that we maximise our impact.

“We have also met with the community leadership of Masiphumelele who have been very co-operative and very positive in their inputs.”

She said half of Masiphumelele, which is a wetland, will be fenced off, “because water is a scarce resource that ought to be protected".

SA National Civic Organisation chairperson in the Site C area, Simphiwe Kwadi said the fire victims were housed in local churches while they tried to rebuild their razed homes.

“In a meeting that we had with the City of Cape Town and the Minister of Human Settlements on Monday, the City told us that they had zero budget to assist those people with rebuilding their homes, they also told us that because there were less than 200 structures razed, the area could not be declared a disaster.

“Now some of the people are trying to use some of their charred material to rebuild their homes because it is also not hygienic or safe to sleep in crowds at the churches,” he said.

Kwadi confirmed that the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) was the only department providing aid to the victims.

“They bring food almost everyday to ensure that these people do not starve, I have seen reports of other organisations claiming to be providing aid to the affected but none of that is true, it has only been Sassa and now the Department of Home Affairs has also requested a compiled list of all those affected so that they can assist with identity documentation,” he said.

According to the City, there were fewer fires during this festive season compared with 2019.

There were 177 informal structure fires, and 159 formal structure fires during December last year.

Weekend Argus

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