Residents rebuild after Langa fire

A man picking through the debris to build his shack.

Joe Slovo residents in Langa who were left destitute after a fire destroyed their homes two weeks ago have finally started to rebuilt their shacks.

More than 100 informal structures were burnt down on Monday January 8.

The residents have been sleeping outside for the last two weeks, waiting for rebuilding starter kits from the City of Cape but they have not received these.

They said this was due to a mistake made by an official who gave the City incorrect information about how many shacks had been lost.

They said 174 shacks perished but a municipal official came when everyone was in a meeting with the councillor and recorded only 97 shacks.

Ward 52 councillor Samkelo John admitted that somebody from the City had made a mistake by registering fewer shacks.

But that confusion has now left the residents with the task of rebuilding their lives without any help. After days of waiting in vain, they began putting up their homes on Thursday January 18,

However, Mr John said they are talking to the City about the confusion.

“This individual came while we were in a meeting with the residents at Johnson Ngwevela hall. What he did was to speak to those who were left behind and register 97 people, then submitted the list to the city. When we submitted the real list, the City already had the 97 one. They then would not budge to our explanation. But we are in talks because 77 people went to Delft,” he said.

Mr John added that there is a lot of confusion because the directive for that piece of land comes from the provincial government.

Talking to Vukani, residents, some who did not want to mention their names as they feared harassment, accused their officials of corruption.

“We felt we needed to rebuild our own lives rather than waiting for the City to give us starter kits. We are not blaming the City but among us there is wrong doings. The City came with 24 starter kits but there were 174 burnt shacks. We felt, let them take them back because we were going to fight among ourselves.” said one resident.

He said wrong lists were sent to the City by greedy people. “I was part of people that worked to see that we get starter packs from the City.

“But what I saw there was bad. If I have a wife, I will register my wife as an independent, and if I have a child who is an age of getting a house, I will also register him or her independently,” he said, giving an example of how the numbers are manipulated.

“That is why there is confusion here,” he said.

When Vukani visited the area, residents were busy rebuilding their shacks with scrap pieces of zinc salvaged from the fire. Some were building with planks.

Aphiwe Sigogwana was busy with his shack. He said he was tired of sleeping outside.

He was among the people who lost everything. He said it had been a difficult two weeks for the residents who were left behind.

“We had to choose to go to Delft or stay behind. We chose to stay behind. But the sad part is that we have nothing at our disposal. No food, no blankets and no clothing. But we have to soldier on and make something out of nothing. If we had starter kits, it would have been much better. But life has to continue,” he said.

He is also disappointed that those who lead cannot solve their problems. The residents had to remove the debris and rebuild.

Ntomboxolo Makoba-Somdaka spokesperson for the MEC for Human Settlements, Bonginkosi Madikizela, said according to their records, the total number of burned shacks in Joe Slovo was 97. She said it was the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Management Risk Department’s responsibility to provide starter kits in cases of a fire disaster.

She said the development of Joe Slovo informal settlement forms part of the N2 Gateway project managed by all three spheres of government, local, provincial and national.

“The Joe Slovo precinct is behind schedule as it is the in-situ type of development, meaning that the developer needs to relocate informal structures before a development is done and there had been delays caused by community resistance to relocate to the Temporary Relocation Areas in Delft. The affected structures were scheduled for relocation to Delft as the area was due to be developed,” she said.

She added that stakeholders comprising representatives from the Department of Human Settlements, HDA, City of Cape Town, the developer, the ward councillor and the community leadership had met shortly after the fire to discuss the resettlement plan. She said the stakeholders agreed that the affected families should be relocated to Delft and the voluntary relocations began immediately and were later delayed as some names on the relocation list were not part of the fire victims as per the City’s and leadership’s verification process.