Site B fire victims live in fear of virus

This is where the residents are living after their shacks were destroyed by fire.

Dozen of displaced fire victims from UT Sobambisana informal Settlement in Site B have expressed fear and anxiety about their health as they are confined to a double-storey community hall without enough food, soap and protective masks.

The residents have been in the community hall since the beginning of last month after they lost their shacks and personal belongings when a fire destroyed nine homes, leaving 33 people – including children – homeless.

The residents said they have nothing and rely on donations from the community to survive.

When Vukani arrived at the hall, mattress were lined up and being prepared for those staying at the hall.

There were women breastfeeding their babies.

Resident Phelekwa Ngebanga said the situation at the hall was not conducive to preventing the spread of the coronavirus as 33 people were sharing the same space.

Ms Ngebanga said they had not had any help from the City since the fire destroyed their homes.

As winter approaches, she added, it’s getting cold in the hall and she was concerned about their health – particulary that of the children.

She explained to Vukani that they had converted the first floor of the hall into a bathroom and that they had had to set up a bathing schedule so that they each had a turn to use the facility.

“We do not have any privacy at all.

“We don’t have masks and sanitiser. The current food that we have which is not enough was donated by an NGO.

“We are not exaggerating our plight but it is by the grace of God that we are able to eat every day.

“It is not nice to find yourself homeless and sharing a place with more than 30 people.

“Our living situation is sad and traumatising.

“With the national lockdown in place, it is extremely difficult to live in this current set up.

“But we have no choice but stay here so that at least we could have a roof on top of our heads,” she said.

Ms Ngebanga has applauded their community leaders and ward councillor for trying to ensure that they have food on the table.

Community leader, Bulelani Mili, said it was painful to witness the conditions the fire victims were living in, and that despite requests to relocate them, the City had not assisted.

Ward councillor, Thando Mpengesi, said he had knocked on every City door looking help and guidance but all his efforts had been fruitless.

He added that he was working tirelessly to ensure the people in the hall, most of whom do not work, had something to eat every day. But mayoral committee member for Human Settlements, Malusi Booi, said the City held numerous meetings to discuss the matter with the nine families and made the decision to issue fire kits to the affected families to the site where the fire occurred. It is understood that the families are reluctant to return to the site. And the fire kits are available for the affected families to rebuild their structures.