No ID, no help after fire

2019-12-25 06:00
PHOTO: Moeketsi mamaneNkosinathi Nxumalo, a Jika Joe resident, was hard at work yesterday rebuilding a new shack after losing his home in the fire two weeks ago.

PHOTO: Moeketsi mamaneNkosinathi Nxumalo, a Jika Joe resident, was hard at work yesterday rebuilding a new shack after losing his home in the fire two weeks ago.

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THE future of Jika Joe residents remains uncertain after a shack fire that left almost 100 people homeless two weeks ago.

The inferno that burnt through the night was said to be the result of a candle that fell during a fight between a sex worker and her client.

The shack dwellers who lost their homes are currently staying at the AF Wood community hall, where they’ve had to rely on donations for food, water, clothing and even baby formula.

Yesterday Ward 33 councillor Suraya Reddy said there was a challenge with building new homes for the fire victims.

She said that as part of its policies, the Department of Human Settlements could only give land and building materials to those who could produce formal identification, but most of the affected Jika Joe residents had lost theirs in the fire.

“Of the 97 people at the hall, only 29 had identification on them,” said Reddy.

However, getting new identity documents could take a while because they have to prove their identities.

Pietermaritzburg manager for the Department of Home Affairs, Xolani Maphumulo, said their hands are tied as they cannot help anyone get a temporary ID using just their name.

“I was told by the councillor that most of the stranded residents don’t know their ID numbers. Without that, at least, we can’t help them.

“We need a formal way to identify the residents before we can move forward in issuing them with temporary identification documents.”

Maphumulo said another setback they were facing was that his office no longer had a mobile task team.

He said that all the equipment needed for the process was at the Home Affairs offices, on Church Street, therefore the Jika Joe residents needed to make arrangements to go there.

This has left Jika Joe residents who lost all their documents in the fire feeling helpless.

Thulani Biyela said without his ID, he was not able to do anything to rebuild his life after the fire.

“I lost all my documents in that fire. I also lost the bit of money I had been saving for this Christmas.

“Without that, all I can do is sit and wait for help”, said Biyela.

Bongani Thwala said the past two weeks had been eating away at him as he was unable to send money to his children back home.

“As a father, it is not nice not being able to provide for your family. I am a driver.

“I lost my licence and ID in the fire … Without my driving job, I can’t make any money to send to my children in time for Christmas.” THWALA said as much as he appreciated the food and clothes provided by the community for him, he was still broken.

“I eat and sleep with a heavy heart every day,” Thwala said.

Yesterday The Witness visited the site where the new informal settlement was being erected and found that 10 shacks had been built, and an additional 20 were in the works.

Reddy said the project to rebuild the informal settlement had been approved.

She said the houses would be big enough to accommodate a family of two to three people.

Nokwanda Majola, an occupant of the new settlement, said under the circumstances, she is grateful for what was being done. “As people, our priorities and needs differ. I am just happy to now have a roof over my head”, said Majola.

Other residents on site who were waiting for their materials said that they were concerned because they could not build their own houses.

“As a woman, how am I expected to build a house from scratch? I have never picked up a hammer in my life,” said a resident.

Reddy said there was a group of 20 men who had volunteered to assist the families in building their new homes. She said they would be on site as soon as all the building material had arrived, and people had been approved to receive the houses.

Reddy said there were discussions and negotiations taking place with the task teams, should people not be homed by the end of this week

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