Every fire in Masiphumelele is met in the same way by the surrounding residents in the valley.
After every fire, Living Hope is flooded with donations. Blankets, toiletries, baby clothes, stationery, school bags, shoes: whatever the need, there is an answer.
Reverend John Thomas of Living Hope says the response has, once again, been on point.
A fire early on Sunday May 19, razed 119 shacks, and displaced 350 people in Masi.
Reverend Thomas put up a post that day at 3pm, with details on Sunday. That single post had 179 shares: and by 9pm that same night, three full bakkie loads of emergency supplies were driven into Masi by members of Living Hope.
“Nobody in Masi slept in the cold, nobody was exposed to the rain, which arrived that very night. They had mattresses, pillows and blankets,” he said.
The community was offered the use of their community hall, but they chose to bed down in the church instead, because of its proximity to the area which burned down.
Reverend Thomas said residents want to be close by to protect their stand, in case it’s taken over by chancers who try to claim their space.
Asked why the surrounding communities gave, year after year, without skipping a beat, Reverend Thomas said:“What this response shows me, is the unity and support which is foremost in people’s minds and hearts. It shows me that the people of the valley are good-hearted. And that the idea held by an extremely minimal portion of the population, that people outside of Masi are racist, is proven wrong every time there are fires. The truth is, the people of the valley care about Masi and her residents, and they show it each time,” he said.
He knows the people of Masi and the area. Well. He has been involved since the very beginning of Masi, which was initially an illegal settlement made up of 600 people, who had all been farm workers on farms which had systematically been sold off.
“All those years ago, the settlement was called Greenpoint, and it consisted of entirely local people, who had either worked their whole lives on farms which no longer existed, or had been born on those farms,” he said.
He said that Masi was developed to hold a maximum of 3 000 people, and that the clinic and school were both started by the King for Kings Church, which is why those structures form the base of Masi.
He said unofficially the head count now is a good guestimate of 35 000; and that much of this is made up of foreign nationals, or people who have come from the Eastern Cape looking for jobs.
He said land and housing are among the area’s biggest bugbears, and that obviously the infrastructure created for 3 000 is not working for 35 000.
He showed off the new intake of donations which Living Hope staff members sat patiently sorting into bags, marked blankets, clothes (labelled either baby clothes, girls or boys, men or women).
One individual donor gave R5 000, and Reverend Harvey laid the receipts out on his desk to prove the expenditure went on essentials for the fire victims.
He said that disaster management were on hand attending to the residents, and that he had seen both ward councillor Felicity Purchase and PR councillor Pat Francke on the site representing the City.
Ms Purchase lauded the residents’ determination to rebuild their lives. She posted at 10pm on Sunday night, after having been on site during the day liaising with disaster management and City housing officials.
Ms Purchase confirmed that the residents chose to stay in the church rather than the community hall which was made available to them. She encouraged anyone with donations to drop them off at Living Hope in Kommetjie Road, so that they would find their way to the fire victims.
Masi resident Zanyiwe Mavubengwana said the devastation was terrible. She thanked her youth fellowship members for helping her serve tea and coffee to the displaced people. She said they would need help until their houses were rebuilt.
Ms Mayubengwana was the force behind a recent clean-up of Masi by community members, and she thanked the Masi residents who had made donations to the fire victims, and said: “If we can’t help them, who will?”
Ms Mavubengwana said people have been cared for by neighbours in the valley and their local church.
She said while donations of soup are appreciated people also needed something substantial to sustain them for work and school as well as more toiletries.
Her greatest concern was the loss of ID books and South Africa Social Security Agency (SASSA) cards in the blaze. “People need help with these things now,” she said.