Masi rebuilds after fire

The inside of one of the emergency shelters for Masiphumelele fire victims.

The devastation of the fire that razed 1 100 shacks in Masiphumelele on Thursday December 17 last year is being slowly resolved with emergency housing.

However, life on the ground remains fraught with difficulties, despite ongoing disaster aid.

According to Human Settlements MEC Tertuis Simmers, who visited the site earlier this month, 400 emergency shelters have already been built and are occupied.

“I’m pleased that the three spheres of government and the Housing Development Agency (HDA), along with the assistance of the community leadership, have been able to swiftly assist some of those who were affected by this disaster,” he said in a statement.

More shelters needed to be built on the local sports field, but there had been some opposition to that.

“I am concerned that there are some individuals in the community that are preventing the construction of the temporary units on the sports field to commence. More so, as these residents are seeking to benefit even though they were not affected by this disaster. The longer this stalemate continues, the longer it will take to ensure that these victims have a decent roof over their heads. My department’s stakeholder team, along with our various government partners and the HDA will continue to engage this group so that this matter can speedily be resolved.”

Masiphumelele residents watch the building of emergency shelters.

Reverend John Thomas, from the Living Hope charity, said surrounding communities had flooded the organisation with so many donations for the fire victims that it had battled to find space for all of them.

Following meetings with all three tiers of government it was decided that the City would build 6m x 3m corrugated iron emergency shelters, with concrete floors, for the fire victims on both the site of the fire and the sports field.

These shelters are owned by the City and the fire victims will stay in them rent free while formal housing is built for them on a nearby site. When the housing on that site is complete, the emergency shelters will be demolished and replaced with formal housing on the Wetlands B and C sites.

According to Reverend Thomas, the City gives Living Hope a list of people allocated a shelter on a particular day, and everyone receiving goods from Living Hope signs against this list. Each occupant gets a key to the shelter and a certificate of occupancy, and Living Hope delivers donated goods, including bedding, hygiene packs, household goods, curtains, a carpet, food and a two-plate stove.

Just some of the goods donated by surrounding communities to the fire victims.

Howard Mbana, one of those who lost his home in the fire, said many more shelters were still needed. He has been allocated a shelter, but says so many still do not have a roof over their heads.

“The frustration is becoming unbecoming on daily basis,“ he said. ”The allocated victims are with no electricity and no flushing toilets but using portable pits. Land is the real need, as we feel that it has been long, and people start to lose hope.

“The community is furious about the slow pace and many meetings that cannot relate to the seriousness of the challenges faced,“ he said.

In an earlier statement, Mr Simmers said chemical toilets had been installed at the site and there were 16 standpipes to provide water.