Fires wreak havoc

Nthabeleng Thwalo was among the Nyakathisa informal settlement residents clearing rubble so they could rebuild their structures after this weekend's fire.

Residents of Nyakathisa informal settlement in Mfuleni say the community is not only desperately in need of adequate housing, but also a councillor that can take care of their needs.

The informal settlement is a high risk fire area and was not spared from the weekend’s devastating blazes.

At least 43 structures were destroyed when a fire broke out in the area on Saturday April 15, leaving hundreds of people displaced.

Areas in Gugulethu and Crossroads were also affected by fires which claimed at least two lives.

Angry residents turned the heat on City officials who visited the area on Monday April 17. They called on the officials to help them get a councillor, claiming not to have one.

The City of Cape Town has pledged to rebuild the affected area and to investigate the reason they have no councillor.

Anda Ntsodo, mayoral committee member for area east, said the City would investigate the community’s complaints. He said people were entitled to service delivery. “Whoever is a councillor here will be disciplined. There is no way that this area does not have a councillor. This is the first of its kind, to not have a councillor. It is ridiculous,” he said.

Mr Ntsodo said the City responded to the fire in Nyakathisa promptly.

He said they provided residents with building kits to restart their lives.

He pleaded with the community to leave spaces between their structures so firefighters and other services could reach them during emergencies.

“We want to reduce the dangers of fire. We have a reblocking programme that provides people with sanitation, water and electricity. These people do not have these services. They must please work with the City and leave spaces between their structures. Many shacks burned down because firefighters cannot make their way through the community. We have spoken to the community leaders about the issue,” he said.

The Disaster Management East Area manager Onele Ndesi said all the necessary help had been provided to the fire victims. He said 42 people were given the kit only as one structure was checked because it was partially damaged.

Community leader Busi Vuba on Monday morning said the community was busy clearing the rubble to rebuild their homes.

She said the building material for the affected victims to rebuild their structures was issued in time.

She too raised the concern about not having a councillor in the area. “We literally do not have a councillor. The two councillors told us we do not belong to either of them. The shocking part is that we have been here since 2008. We need somebody who will certify our documents, proof of address, identify our needs and work with us,” she said.

Nthabeleng Thwala said she learned some lessons from the fire including that spaces must be left between structures. “We lost everything because there was no way that my shack could be reached. This could have been prevented if we had roads or proper houses.”

She said staying in a shack was hazardous.