Rampant overcrowding is to blame for a fire in Joe Slovo last week that destroyed the homes and belongings of almost 50 families, say residents.
According to City Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse, the fire in the Kuyasa informal settlement last Thursday took 30 firefighters from five fire brigades more than three hours to put out. One of the firefighters was hospitalised with back injuries but no other injuries were reported. Mr Carelse said the cause of the fire was still unknown.
Charlotte Powell, the City’s spokesperson for disaster risk management, said the fire destroyed 47 shacks – home to some 172 people.
The victims would get building materials and humanitarian aid, she said. According to Joe Slovo community leader Mzimkhulu Sopeni, nearly 50 families lost their belongings in the fire.
“We need to sit down and have discussions with the City of Cape Town about relocations to other pieces of land,” he said.
Thando Mjevu, a Joe Slovo resident, said fires could be avoided if the City listened to residents.
“The City never listens to the people, and that is why we are where we are today. Lots of promises have been made and people are fed up now. There are lots of issues here in Joe Slovo, so we can’t afford to have these fires destroying the very little that people have.”
However, not everyone feels the issue should be dumped in the City’s lap. Joe Slovo Crisis Committee member Noxolo Mayeki said greed was the root of the problem because people who already had houses invaded vacant land to sell plots to others desperate for land and a home.
“This causes lots of problems because often these areas don’t have basic services and when a fire erupts, people’s lives are in danger,” she said.
“On the other hand, the City is not moving fast enough. We need them to immediately identify land and let us know of their plans. We are in the process of trying to see if we can facilitate a meeting with the City of Cape Town.”
Ms Mayeki said the same thing was happening in Dunoon – people were invading land and selling it at high prices.
Tabletalk asked the City to comment on what Joe Slovo residents had to say about overcrowding in the area but it did not respond by the time this edition went to print.