Gangsters rob fire victims

| Siyavuya Khaya
Residents of Military Heights near Lavender Hill are slowly rebuilding their homes after last weekend’s fire. Photo by Siyavuya Khaya.

After four nights sleeping in the open, families in Military Heights informal settlement near Lavender Hill have started rebuilding the homes destroyed by a fire last weekend. Some were robbed by gangsters as they tried to salvage their belongings after the fire.

Military Heights resident Anthea Eiman’s six-roomed shack was one of 25 devastated by fire. She managed to save a few items but some of her electrical appliances were ruined by water when firefighters doused the fire.

She said her children and her husband had lost most of their belongings.

Eiman, a mother of six, said she had been visiting a friend when she heard screams and cries coming from her community. She had rushed back to her shack hoping it had not been affected.

“I don’t know how we are going to rebuild our lives because my husband is unemployed and I’m also unemployed and we are just clueless about what to do,” she said.

Asked how the fire started, she said: “Apparently the fire broke out due to my uncle’s young grandchild who was playing with matches. But this could have been avoided if the government had built the houses the residents had been asking for,” said Eiman.

Residents had battled to prevent the fire from spreading, she said, because when two or more of the taps are opened at the same time no water comes out of the other taps.

While the victims of the fire were busy removing their possessions from the scene, gangsters had held them up at gunpoint and taken some of their belongings, said Eiman.

When GroundUp visited the area yesterday some residents were slowly rebuilding their shacks and others were watching over their belongings. They said they had slept on the ground where their shacks had been so as not to lose their pieces of land to other residents who wanted to expand their shacks.

Resident Salome Stevens said she had lost almost everything including her identity documents.

But she said she was grateful to the community leaders who had left their own shacks and slept with the fire victims on the open ground to show moral support.

City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue services spokesperson Theo Layne said the fire had displaced 100 people.

“Each household has received some materials to assist them in building their lives again,” he said.

The South African Red Cross had provided hot meals, blankets and baby packs, said Layne.

TOPICS:  Crime Government Housing

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