Father burnt in shack fire saving son

About 27 families lost their homes in a blaze on Saturday morning in Khayelitsha

By Vincent Lali

7 March 2022

Photo of burnt shacks

A fire on Saturday morning displaced 27 households in BT section of Site C, Khayelitsha in Cape Town. Photo: Vincent Lali

A father sustained serious burns while rescuing his four-year-old son from a shack fire in BT section of Site C, Khayelitsha, in Cape Town. The fire started in his shack on Saturday morning before spreading to others. The blaze destroyed 27 homes.

The father, Ntemi Mthwesi, was rushed to Tygerberg Hospital.

On Monday his girlfriend, Yandiswa Hlelwe, said he remains in a critical condition.

“He jumped out of his burning shack already burnt but realised that he had left his son behind and returned to rescue him,” she said.

Community leader Maxwell Plaatjie said fire victims rushed to the nearby Lansdowne Fire Station to fetch fire fighters, but were told they were busy elsewhere.

The shack dwellers battled the blaze until firefighters arrived from another station.

Plaatjie said victims are in need of clothes and food.

On Sunday, Plaatjie and other fire victims were trying to rebuild their homes.

Plaatjie said they had settled in the area in 1995. “We always hear that we would be moved somewhere [to housing], but it never actually materialises,” he said.

His wife, Lindelwa Plaatjie, said,“Our kids can’t go to school tomorrow as they now don’t have school uniforms and books.”

Resident Nomfusi Njamela said they struggled to get water to fight the blaze and used sand instead. There is only one standpipe located at Japhta Masemola Road outside BT section which serves about 200 families.

Njamela said she relies on government grants and has no money to buy materials to rebuild her shack.

On Monday Plaatjie told GroundUp, “We are still struggling to pick up the pieces. Some don’t even have building nails or blankets. We still sleep at friends’ places.”

Charlotte Powell, spokesperson for the City’s Disaster Risk Management said 59 people were displaced and SASSA has been informed to provide humanitarian relief.