No money to help fire victims rebuild, says City

A fire in Joe Slovo has left scores of families homeless.

There’s no money to give rebuilding kits to the scores of people left homeless by a fire that tore through Joe Slovo’s Marikana informal settlement at the weekend, says the City.

The fire destroyed 44 shacks, the homes of some 132 people, according to Disaster Risk Management spokeswoman Charlotte Powell.

The South African Social Security Agency had been asked to give humanitarian aid, and an NGO would also help the fire victims, she said.

There were no injuries, said City Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse.

Firefighters had got the call at 7.53am on Saturday and had battled strong winds and the cramped conditions among the shacks to put out the fire by 11.17am, he said. The cause of the fire was unknown, he added.

The cause of Saturday morning’s blaze is still unknown.

Malusi Booi, mayoral committee member for human settlements, said City assistance would include donations and help clearing the site, but there was no money for kits to help the victims rebuild.

Until recently, the City had been the only metro in the country that had given rebuilding kits, outside of a declared national disaster, to backyarders and those in informal settlements left homeless by fire, Mr Booi said. The kits usually include 25 zinc sheets, 14 fire-treated wooden poles, three packets of nails, a door, door hinges, a window frame and a window.

“This was subject to funding and, in particular, grant funding from the national government. Changes to the funding have impacted on operations. The national government grants have been cut, and this is impacting on all City operations,” he said, adding: “Now there is no more money.”

Joe Slovo community leader Mzimkhulu Sopeni said the City hid behind the “no money” excuse when, in fact, it did not care.

“They speak hypothetically about what they would do in similar situations, but they aren’t really doing anything. If we were dealing with people who actually cared about the people, something would be done a long time ago to address these situations and prevent them from occurring. But they feel nothing for the people living in squalor. Even the councillor… is he even still our councillor? I’ve called him seven times today [Monday] and he is just ignoring us,” said Mr Sopeni.

Amanda Kemp of Phoenix hands out food to the fire victims.

Community leaders had been in talks with various NGOs and civic groups from around Milnerton, and some had pledged their support, Mr Sopeni said.

Ward councillor Wandisile Ngeyi said Mr Sopeni knew there was only so much a councillor could do and that it was the City officials who had the power to help the people.

“But as I have mentioned before,” he said, “the issue in Joe Slovo has been a ticking time bomb for many years. Right now, the problems will need to be solved via a joint effort from the City, province and national governments. The new planned development on Freedom Way will also not be enough to address the issues of this community. We should be looking at getting more land to help relocate people from these informal settlements on a permanent basis.”