Fire ravages Jika Joe settlement

2013-09-09 00:00

RESIDENTS watched helplessly as their possessions were destroyed in a fire that ripped through the Jika Joe informal settlement early yesterday morning.

It was thought that the fire started in a shack where a couple were quarelling, and then spread due to the strong wind, but this could not be confirmed.

In April this year, a fire gutted about 30 shacks at the settlement.

The path of yesterday’s inferno was more destructive, reducing more than 100 shacks to ashes and leaving more than 300 people destitute.

Resident Dombi Zakwe, who lost a child in another fire in 2003, said she was left with the clothing she was wearing.

The unemployed Zakwe said they were hoping for relief organisations to come to their rescue.

“My children’s school uniforms were burned to ashes, and my groceries as well. Without a shelter, we don’t know where we are going to sleep,” she said.

Zakwe was also concerned that their identity documents should be replaced in time to vote in next year’s elections.

Upon visiting the scene, Msunduzi Mayor Chris Ndlela said he was devastated to see the damage caused by the fire. “While we are sad that people’s belongings were destroyed in the fire, we are grateful that there was no death,” he said.

Ndlela said the municipality would provide emergency assistance to those affected, while a permanent solution was being sought.

Municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said the city’s disaster management unit had been at the scene since 5 am and he was waiting for an assessment of the damage from the unit, so that they could assist.

“We do have plans in place to provide a permanent solution to the Jika Joe problem,” he said.

Relief organisations like Gift of the Givers and the Red Cross were already at the scene, offering assistance.

Ward councillor Naleni Atwaru (DA) said the issue of housing for the Jika Joe community had been discussed at length at both local government and provincial level.

“Despite numerous promises, we have still not seen any tangible evidence of improvement, nor indeed any firm plan being put into action to accommodate the needs of these people, who have become more desperate with each passing year,” she said, adding no housing register had yet been opened for the residents.

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