TR fire victim appeals for help to rebuild her home

Mavis Masebe in a shack she is trying to rebuild but but does not have the money to buy the materials she needs.

Two months after more than 40 shacks were gutted by fire, many residents of TR Section informal settlement in Khayelitsha are nowhere near to rebuilding their lives.

Among them is Mavis Masebe, 63, who has spent every day since then trying to secure donations of building materials and clothing.

The pensioner who who is now living in someone’s shack in the area said she had been able to salvage nothing except her identity document.

When the fire started she was in bed, recuperating from a back operation.

Her two sons and her husband were busy helping other shack dwellers, unaware that the fire was approaching their shack too.

And when they arrived, it was too late.

“It was windy on the day and the fire looked far from us but it was quick to reach us. It was difficult for me to get up but I managed. All I thought of was my ID because I was going to go for the second operation. I helplessly watched my shack going down,” she told Vukani.

She went to the local councillor and asked the municipality for help. But the municipality has stopped providing building materials for fire victims.

She and her family are now living in a shack belonging to someone else – who is now demanding that they start paying rent – or move out.

However, no one in their family works and they survive on her pension grant. “We are all unemployed. We live on grant money. The fire has left my sons with trauma too. The young one is staying with a relative away from here. He is too scared to come here. He said at times he has hallucinations. I can understand his feelings too,” she said.

She explained that rebuilding her shacks is a slow and difficult process because she is entirely dependent on donations. The shack requires sheets of zinc to build, nails plus numerous pieces of board for the walls and windows. “Those are things we cannot afford at all. But we have taken to old ones and started to rebuild because the owner of this one is on our back.”

While there had been a steady stream of clothing donations in the aftermath of the fire, there was a dire shortage of building materials.

“Whatever we get will be helpful. We are now on the verge of sleeping on the floor in the shack we are trying to rebuild,” she said.

Disaster Risk Management spokesperson Charlotte Powell said the blaze destroyed 41 structures and that the South African Social Security Agency had been requested to provide humanitarian relief to the 86 affected residents

Anyone with help can contact Mavis Masebe on 078 564 7666.

Mama Masebe will accept any help.