Imizamo Yethu residents rebuild after fire

| Bernard Chiguvare
Tashnay Matshata, who grew up in the area, lost all her possessions in the fire. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare.

Imizamo Yethu residents who fell victim to a fire that razed numerous shacks and left families homeless a week ago are busy rebuilding their homes after getting some assistance from the City of Cape Town. Shacks belonging to South Africans and Zimbabweans just 200 metres away from Hout Bay police station were burnt to ashes.

Although City’s Disaster Risk Management (DRM) set up an emergency shelter at the Izukolobom Community Church, some of the homeless preferred to stay with family or friends.

According to the DRM, each shack owner will receive 14 pine poles, 25 galvanised corrugated iron sheets, one door, a padlock, one window pane, and 2kg of wire nails. The material is supposed to be enough for a basic dwelling of nine square metres.

When GroundUp visited the area, some residents were still waiting for material to be delivered, while others said the building material supplied was not sufficient. Most of the structures were not yet complete and some people were helping others build their homes.

Tashnay Matshata, 22, who was born and grew up in the area, was not sure whether she would be getting any material.

“They were supposed to come with the material yesterday but up to now we have not yet seen them. I am really stressed because since last week Thursday my daughter and myself have been staying with a friend.”

According to Matshata the friend is doing all she can, but she said she would feel more comfortable in her own place. All her possessions were reduced to ashes while she was away at work.

“Though my friend helped with clothes … my daughter I have no bed at all. I am sleeping on the floor and now my back is sore,” she said.

For meals, Matshata visits the community hall where community volunteers supply meals.

Tawando Zano. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare.

Tawanda Zano, 27, from Zimbabwe, has been living in Imizamo Yethu since 2013.

“Since Thursday last week I have been staying with my brother in Gugulethu. All my possessions were burnt except my phone and the clothes I was wearing,” he said.

Zano is worried because his Zimbabwean passport was also destroyed in the fire.

“I have to go home and sort out all these documents,” he said.

He survives on piece jobs and currently he has no work.

“The City should make an effort to build proper houses with space in between. It is easy for all structures to be in flames when they are clustered like this,” said Zano.

He said firefighters had arrived late and found it hard to gain access to the burning area.

Zano is a tenant in Dumisani Langa’s shack which was divided into four rooms.

“On Friday, I received 16 zinc sheets, 15 planks and two doors. This is only enough for the structure, but I do not have boards to divide the shack into rooms so that I can accommodate my tenants,” said Langa.

Langa’s wife and two children live with his in-laws at the other side of the informal settlement.

Another Zimbabwean, Steven Ngadya, 30, who has been living in the informal settlement since 2010, and was also busy re-erecting his home, said, “Yes, I was given some zincs and planks but it’s not enough for the whole structure. Right now I am going to buy cement and more zinc to complete the job.”

Fezeka Kwaza about to prepare the ground for rebuilding. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare.

“A man has to make a plan in difficult times like these,” said Fezeka Kwaza, 37, who was also busy rebuilding his home with help from friends. He said the 25 zinc sheets and 15 planks he was given were not enough for his structure.

“My wife and my children have been offered temporary accommodation by my wife’s employer.”

Kwaza, who works at a security company, has lived in the informal settlement since 2000.

“I have been sleeping in my car since the shack was burnt. When I feel cold, especially in the morning, I start up my car and put the heater on for warmth for a time then switch off,” said Kwaza.

“This is not the first time our shacks have been destroyed like this. The City should build us proper brick buildings.”

TOPICS:  Housing Local government Society

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