Imizamo Yethu businesses struggling after fire

Owners plead for help from City

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Photo of a business owner in Imizamo Yethu
Imizamo Yethu business owner Nolubabalo Jako says she cannot manage without help from the City of Cape Town. Photo: Thembela Ntongana

More than a month after the fire that left many residents in Imizamo Yethu informal settlement homeless, business owners say they cannot manage without help from the City of Cape Town.

At a press conference in Imizamo Yethu last week Wednesday held by Mayor Patricia De Lille and some community leaders, it was made clear that services such as electricity and sanitation would only be provided after three months, once the reblocking of the area has been completed.

But some residents have refused to move to make way for the community to be reblocked.

Nolubabalo Jako and Zoliswa Mgolombane both own businesses in the area where residents have refused to move.

Jako has a small meat stand on the side of the road. She has two children and her husband is unemployed.

She said when the fire happened she had just come back from buying meat to sell for the weekend and she had lost all of it in the fire

“I would love to build my house but I do not have the money. I thought the City would have provided us with building kits by now,” she said.

“I have no income, I have children that I have to feed. Other people are using ice cubes, but I can’t because I sell meat. It is almost three weeks now since the fire - imagine how much money I have lost,” said Jako.

She said she had to start from scratch because her meat stand also burnt down. Jako said she needed to make money to buy school uniforms for her children to replace those lost in the fire. If she had a building kit she could build a place to put her things, she said. At the moment she is living with friends.

“They want us to stay in tents. Do they think about how we will make a living while we are there?” said Jako.

Mgolombane sells drinks and says that that without electricity she has to spend money buying ice blocks which do not last very long.

She spends close to R20 on a return trip to get the ice cubes, with one packet costing R5. She buys close to 10 packets a day and sometimes more depending on the weather.

“Many people are buying because they are working hard building their houses but they will not buy if the drinks are warm so I need to keep them cold,” said Mgolombane.

She has two daughters, one at university and another in a private school where she has to pay a small percentage of the fees.

“I cannot sit and wait around because it does not seem like we will get the services any time soon, the way things are going,” said Mgolombane.

The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services and Energy, Councillor Xanthea Limberg, told GroundUp that two temporary relocation areas were being built to give residents affected by the fire some privacy and to “enable them to return to normality” while the re-blocking was completed.

Limberg did not respond to questions by GroundUp about opposition by some residents to the re-blocking. Instead, she said: “The City plans to provide basic services to all residents in Imizamo Yethu. The leadership and the community at large have been constantly consulted and have agreed to and support super-blocking.”

Limberg said households would be relocated within three months “if all goes according to plan.” The project should be completed by the end of the year, she said.

TOPICS:  Fire Housing

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