Joe Slovo residents left destitute after fire

Four shacks were partially damaged, and 34 people were displaced or affected.

Victims of a fire in Joe Slovo’s Mshini Wam informal settlement say the City of Cape Town has failed them after they lost everything in the blaze last week.

According City Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse, the fire destroyed one house and six backyard shacks. Four shacks were partially damaged, and 34 people were displaced or affected.

“The response comprised three fire engines, two water tankers, a rescue vehicle and 21 staff members. No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is unknown,” he said.

The fire on Tuesday night April 9 destroyed the shack Lusindiso Mawsazi, 34, shared with her mother and two siblings.

They were woken by smoke and people screaming outside.

“Before anything, I tried to make sure that my mother was out of danger because she is not well. After that, it was too late to save anything because the fire was already big. We lost everything,” Ms Mawsazi said.

She has been off work to sort things out, but she’s a contract worker paid by the hour and the longer she’s away, the less she earns.

At the moment, she and her family are staying with friends, but she knows that is not a permanent solution and she appealed to the City for help.

Mzimkhulu Sopeni, a community leader in Joe Slovo, said he had asked the City’s Disaster Risk Management Centre to give building materials to the fire victims to help them rebuild.

“Some people received these starter kits and some got relocation kits. But, unfortunately, the material that was delivered wasn’t enough for the rebuilding operations.

“Some people’s houses were damaged due to people standing on them trying to put the fire out. So it wasn’t just the houses that burnt that were affected,” said Mr Sopeni.

Lungisani Fipaza and his wife and three children, aged 11, 5 and 1, lost their shack in the fire.

“The fire started in a house in front of mine, and it was burning very bad. The fire was high and we were afraid that it would burn the electric wires hanging over the houses, so we got out of the way. We lost our clothes, furniture, IDs and my driver’s licence. The government is meant to assist people when they go through this,” he said.

The City’s Disaster Risk Management Centre spokeswoman Charlotte Powell said the City’s informal housing department had been asked to assess the situation and supply starter building material.

“The South African Social Security Agency was requested to provide humanitarian relief and the City’s solid waste department was requested to remove fire debris. No temporary shelter was required as those affected would stay with family and friends,” she said.

However, Mr Fipaza said they had been not offered any accommodation and had had to make their own arrangements to sleep at the homes of friends and family.

“Imagine those that don’t have any family and friends. They would have to sleep outside,” he said.

Noxolo Mayeki, of the Joe Slovo Crisis Committee, said: “The City could have offered the victims the hall, with blankets, mattresses and food for the time being. This is abuse of the people of Joe Slovo. They think just because a few houses got affected, that it’s not a big deal.”

Ms Mayeki said her committee was working with organisations to find ways to help the fire victims.

Theresa Fernandez, who runs a creche around the corner from where the fire happened, posted an appeal for donations to help the fire victims, on the Milnerton Neighbours Facebook page.

“A number of people have promised to donate, and we have received a few food parcels to help the families. It’s very important that we as neighbours look out for one another because we are all in the same area facing the same issues,” she said.