Stop the fires, demand Hout Bay residents

Hundreds homeless after weekend fire

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Photo of aftermath of fire in Imizamo Yethu.
A boy walks through the ruins of the weekend fire in Imizamo Yethu. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare.

Hout Bay’s Imizamo Yethu residents, whose shacks were burnt to ashes shortly after midnight on Saturday, have called on the City of Cape Town to come up with a lasting solution for fires.

The informal settlement has had several devastating fires in recent months.

Charlotte Powell of the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management said that 128 dwellings were destroyed by the blaze, leaving 538 people homeless.

The City has opened the community hall to shelter people. Red Cross provided relief, hot meals, blankets and clothing. The cause of the fire is unknown.

Francis Mvandaba (34), a single mother of two, stood on the ground that used to be her home. She lost her children’s school uniforms, washing machine, two beds, a computer, and a fridge.

“It was too late for me to take any items from the house. Voices shouting ‘fire, fire’ in the area woke me up. I panicked and just thought of rescuing my children,” she said.

She is now staying at her sister’s place in the area.

“The City of Cape Town should build residents brick houses. This could see an end to the fires. Fire will not spread easily in such houses,” she said.

Photo of woman staning in burnt area.
Francis Mvandaba stands where her home used to be. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare.

A man who identified himself as Ndude said, “This is a clear indication that residents need proper houses. It is time for the City to bring an end to such unfortunate incidents.”

Ndude was in a queue waiting to receive building material for his friend whose shack burnt down.

“Providing us with building material is not a solution. The City should build proper houses giving enough space in between houses,” said Maxwell Limba (30) who was busy with his friends rebuilding his home. He said he was using his own money to buy materials to rebuild. “I can not wait for the City to bring in the material. It takes time,” he said.

Limba’s wife and two children are now staying in Khayelitsha at his brother’s place.

Sakalia Shanyengange from Angola, who has stayed in the area for 17 years, said, “The shacks are too close to each other making it easier for fire to spread. I think the City should build flats in densely populated poor areas like this one.”

Josephat Lucas who has stayed in the area for eight years said, “If residents drank alcohol responsibly the chances of such incidents would be rare.” He was busy preparing to rebuild his shack.

On Sunday afternoon the City’s human settlements department was preparing to distribute building material to residents standing in a queue. Planks, zinc sheets and nails were among the building materials provided for each family.

Photo of housing materials stacked along the road
The City provided new materials for rebuilding shacks. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare.

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TOPICS:  Housing

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