Masiphumelele to get its own fire station

Fire officers at the scene of the Masiphumelele fire on Sunday 29 November.

Thembela Ntongana

3 December 2015

Masiphumelele, scene of a devastating fire last weekend, is to get its own fire station. Community leaders have welcomed the news, but expressed surprise that they were not consulted.

According to a statement by Mayoral Committee Member of Safety and Security, JP Smith, Masiphumelele will get its own fire station by the end of 2017. The fire station will be on Kommetjie Road, diagonally opposite the entrance to Masiphumelele.

The purchase of land had been completed and the City was appointing quantity surveyors, he said. “This fire station will be completed by 2017,” said Smith in the statement.

Masiphumelele community leader Tshepo Moletsana said he had seen the statement from Smith. He welcomed the news but said he was confused as the community had not been consulted on the plan. “When the City is doing something that is supposed to benefit the community, members of the community should be consulted,” said Moletsana.

Residents who lost their homes in the fire last weekend which destroyed 1,000 shacks may only be able to rebuild next week as the City is clearing the area. Some residents are staying with friends, others are in the community hall and some have made shelters for themselves in the bushes.

“Some people want to sleep next to their belongings. That is why they are sleeping in the bush. But we have tried and are still trying to get them places where they can put their things,” said community leader Bonginkosi Jolideli.

Smith said the area affected by the fire would be “reblocked” and engineering services were preparing fire breaks. Shacks are to be separated by roads which fire engines and other emergency vehicles can use.

Jolideli said the reblocking had been a problem at first as some residents had been worried that their new houses would have to be smaller. But the community had agreed to the process. “We have all agreed that we will build equal houses, because we don’t want to burn again.”

“If the fire services had been able to come in, a lot of people would still have their houses,” said Jolideli.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille has not visited the community since the fire. Her spokesperson Zara Nicholson said City officials and councillors had been in the area every day since the fire on Sunday.“In line with our festive season readiness plan, the City has made sure that we are prepared to assist and that we do all we can to assist victims of fires,” she said.

“Since the early hours of Sunday morning, our teams from fire services, human settlements and disaster risk management were in the area to assist residents with relief aid and alternative accommodation,” said Nicholson.

De Lille has however released a statement on the City’s “Misa Umlilo, Stop the Fire campaign” in which shacks in four informal settlements will be painted with fire-retardant paint. The communities are Phumlani Village in Lotus River, Pook se Bos in Rylands, Flamingo Crescent in Lansdowne and Wag ’n Bietjie in Nomzamo.

Moletsana said the reason the Mayor had not visited Masiphumelele was that the area was ANC-dominated. “She is the head of Cape Town. We expected to see her here. But she sent her messengers to come and evaluate the problem,” he said.