Elderly fire victim yearns for help

Mama Beatrice Juku, 78, gets help from neighbours, including Bulelwa Siyoko

A disabled fire victim whose shack was destroyed in Saturday’s fire in Town Two, Khayelitsha, said she is praying to get the help she so desperately needs.

The 78-year-old Beatrice Juku is currently sleeping on a chair at a neighbour’s house near her burnt-out place. No one could help her get building material to rebuild her home.

Ms Juku said had it not been for a good Samaritan, she would be out on the street.

Explaining her ordeal, she said she woke up in the blaze and was lucky to be alive.

“God is good. I am happy that I can still breathe. I cannot tell how I survived.

“But now the problem is to get building material.

I have no one to help because the queue is long and young people are often in front. My daughter has to be by my side most of the time. We are not prioritised as the elderly and the disabled,” she told Vukani

On Tuesday she was sitting in the shade of someone else’s rebuilt shack, hoping she would get help. “I am praying that I get the material so to have my shack back. I am not only praying for building material but a bed that I can sleep on. I need an adjustable bed to sleep. I don’t sleep on a normal bed but the ones you get in hospitals. That is why I sleep on the chair now,” she said.

Her daughter Princess Juku said the situation they face is bad. “There is a lot happening here. People who are not supposed to get material are now first beneficiaries. But I am hoping that our leaders will soon realise that and give us the material too,” she said.

Bulelwa Siyoko, who called Vukani to come and see the plight of the elderly, commended Ms Juku’s neighbours, who she described as towers of strength to the old woman. “She has been sitting here for for days but nothing is coming her way. But at least there are people from the formal houses who are looking after her. However, there is nothing they can do when it comes to building material. They are trying but it is hard here, people are angry when you are not a victim,” she said.

Meanwhile Xanthea Limberg, Mayco member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy, said the City of Cape Town has delivered 122 starter pack for the victims of the Town Two fire and the others will be delivered before the end of the week. “Our services have been stretched from here, Silvertown, Kosovo in Philippi and Hout Bay but our disaster management has done an extensive amount of work in all the areas,” she said at the scene.

Asked about the causes of fires at the informal settlements, Ms Limberg blamed negligence and illegal electricity connections as some of the causes.

She called on people to be mindful when they leave stoves alone in their houses. “We ask people to try to be present when they cook and not leave stoves unattended. We’re also appealing to them to leave spaces for roads when they built their shacks. No encroachment on one another please,” she appealed

On Tuesday officials from the City of Cape Town were still busy with relief efforts in Khayelitsha and Philippi, the scenes of two devastating fires over the weekend.