Burning passions unite to paint a better life

2015-10-27 06:00
The team carried out numerous tests to ensure that the paint used to fireproof informal dwellings does its job properly. 
Justin Sullivan

The team carried out numerous tests to ensure that the paint used to fireproof informal dwellings does its job properly. PHOTO: Justin Sullivan

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Shack fires remain a very real and present threat to the lives of many South Africans still living in informal settlements across the country.

More than 300 people were displaced in Masiphumelele last weekend when 70 shacks were gutted in a blaze allegedly caused by a faulty electrical wire. Three people also died in three other shack fires in Khayelitsha, Philippi and Strand that same weekend.

Having to rebuild their lives after it has been reduced to a pile of ash every time a shack dweller returns home is a constant fear, but a fear which could be extinguished in the not too distant future.

Transception, headed by Justin Zietsman, is looking to change the lives of those who are not fortunate enough to live in a brick and mortar house of their own.

Zietsman’s Khusela Ikhaya project aims to prevent the plague of shack fires in the upcoming summer months by protecting them through a layer of intumescent paint.

In the event of a fire, the paint will expand to form a carbon barrier, acting as a heat sheid while a component in the paint assists in smothering secondary flame. This combination helps to prevent fire from spreading to other parts of the structure, let alone neighbouring structures. The project will roll out its next phase in fireproofing the informal structures on 1 December to the roughly 3000 homes situated along the Masiphumelele wetlands.

“The reason why we chose Masiphumelele first is because it is one of the hot spot areas in the Western Cape. It is one of the most densely populated areas where people live and there have been a number of fires in that settlement,” said Zietsman.

Zietsman’s team went out into the community, engaged with them and provided demonstrations as to how the paint will protects their homes.

“The people were just blown away, because for the first time they can go home to the Eastern Cape in December knowing that their houses will still be there when they get back. Every single time a fire happens in the Western Cape, it costs governement between R6 000 and R17 500 per home (when one adds in damage to services like electricity supply and sanitation). Our initiative only costs R1 500.”

Khusela Ikhaya is endorsed by the City of Cape Town’s department of human settlements and will also provide much needed employment opportunities through the City’s EPWP program.

Western Province hooker Scarra Ntubeni has firmly put his weight behind the project and will act as an ambassador in the townships to promote and further uplift the lives of others in the community, long after the paint has dried.

“When Justin and Ashley came and saw me, it was one of the first projects that I had a chance to get involved in, where you are not benefitting, that it is all about the people and how you can improve other people’s living standards,” he said.

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