About 1000 shacks burnt down after a devastating blaze broke out in an informal settlement in Masiphumelele. Picture Leon Lestrade/African News Agency/ANA.
About 1000 shacks burnt down after a devastating blaze broke out in an informal settlement in Masiphumelele. Picture Leon Lestrade/African News Agency/ANA.

Devastation and hopelessness as Masiphumelele shack fire victims begin rebuild

By Tshego Lepule Time of article published Dec 20, 2020

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Cape Town - It is going to be a bleak Christmas for more than 4000 residents of an informal settlement in Masiphumelele who lost everything when a fire gutted their homes.

For the last three days residents have been rummaging through the rubble that used to be their homes to salvage material to help them rebuild.

This was after a fire broke out Thursday and destroyed as many as 1000 shacks in the area leaving thousands of people with just the clothes on their backs. City of Cape Town mayor, Dan Plato, has since signed a local disaster declaration to access relief funding.

As construction vehicles worked to clear the site of rubble on Saturday, exhausted residents in the area were still hard at work scratching through the pile before they could start rebuilding their homes.

Picture Leon Lestrade. African News Agency/ANA.

One such resident Nontwazana Saule, 43, said she had not slept in two days and only found accommodation yesterday, Saturday.

“I cannot put into words how devastated and hopeless I feel right now,” she said.

“Every single thing we owned burnt along with our house because by the time I came back from the clinic it was too late. Luckily my husband was at work and our 12-year-old son is still admitted at the Red Cross Hospital.

“My worry is that he will come back to find he has no home or find us in a worse off state. Ever since his operation back in 2018 he hasn’t been okay, he even contracted TB and is being treated for that.

“I feel hopeless, what little food I had bought for the holidays and the clothes I had for my children is all gone. I’ve lived here for six years with my family but I feel like if our situation does not improve we might be better off packing up and going to the Eastern Cape.”

Nontwazana Saule, 43, is one of thousands of residents who lost all their belongings in the fire.

Mother of two Anathi Mgugushe, 30, said: “My story is just as sad as the next person who is standing here trying to think of ways to survive from one day to the next.”

“I was at work and my two children were home when the fire started, luckily they managed to escape and found a place to stay until I came home but nothing of ours was saved.

“We have no money for food, clothes or even school uniforms for next year. We need to start from scratch.

“Helping us cannot end at giving us material to build more shacks, we need proper houses because anything else is temporary. Every year there are big shack fires and every year it is the same story. We cannot live like this. Christmas for my children will be about being grateful to have a roof over their head and not enjoy nice food and presents like other children.”

Picture Leon Lestrade. African News Agency/ANA.

Aid to affected families has been trickling in since the devastating fire with Standard Bank donating R1million for relief through the Gift of the Givers and other local organisations coming in to assist.

And yesterday morning the South African National Zakah Fund was in the area helping to deliver and distribute donations to affected families where they said the biggest need was for provisions for babies.

“We are liaising with Living Hope who have been activated by disaster management to co-ordinate relief efforts. In our assessment Living Hope has secured more than 7 000 blankets and food for adults is sorted, the biggest challenge is formula and nappies for babies after having counted more than 400 babies. We will be delivering babycare bags and are appealing to the public to donate to this cause,” said the organisation’s Shafiek Barendse.

For donations, people can contact South African National Zakah Fund on 0216380965 or visit their website. Living Hope can also be contacted on 0824659067.

Weekend Argus

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