Residents struggle to rebuild after shack fire in East London


100 homes destroyed and 350 people displaced in Kwinana informal settlement

Photo of fire debris in an informal settlement
On Wednesday residents were trying to rebuild their homes with damaged materials after 100 shacks were destroyed in Kwinana informal settlement in Duncan Village, East London, in a fire that started on Tuesday afternoon. Photo: Chris Gilili

Over 100 shacks burnt in Kwinana informal settlement in Duncan Village, East London, on Tuesday afternoon. Residents were trying to rebuild their homes, some using damaged materials, on Wednesday. About 350 people were displaced by the fire according to the ward councillor.

Phikiswa Toboyi, a mother of four says she was at work when the fire struck. “I work as a cleaner at Lujiza Primary School …. I don’t know how we will recover from this … I lost my two-roomed shack and everything that was inside. We managed to save just a few clothing items. Our councillor organised a local church hall for us, but we know that not all of us can be accommodated there. We need our homes now.”

Toboyi said, “Even the councillor said nothing about us receiving material to rebuild. She gave us just blankets and food to eat for today.”

Siviwe Mathunywa, who is in matric at Kusile Comprehensive High School, said, “My revision notes, clothing and shoes burnt with the shack, but fortunately all my textbooks were in my school bag and my uniform was safe because I was still at school when this happened. It will affect my studies a lot, because even now I am supposed to be studying, but I have to help my mother rebuild.”

Estha Joka said she was chatting at her neighbour’s shack when a child came and told them that his home was on fire.

“The wind yesterday made it difficult for us to combat the fire … Most of the people here live on social grants and are unemployed. So we can not afford to recover what we lost,” she said.

Joka said the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality must intervene and help with building materials. “Either people are moved to RDP homes or a piece of land is made vacant for us to build on,” said Joka.

Ward 2 councillor Ntombizandile Mhlola (ANC) said, “For now we have opened up the Gompo Community Hall for them. We also will be providing meals for them every day until a suitable solution is available. We do not guarantee anything. For now, we are asking anyone who can chip in and assist to do so. Others have already moved in with their relatives in the area.”

Mhlola said they are still trying to find assistance with building materials for the fire victims.

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