Despair as Masi shack dwellers start over

2015-12-03 07:48
Phumeza Dlulu with her son. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Phumeza Dlulu with her son. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town - Two months after making a new start in Masiphumelele, all Phumeza Dlulu now has is her son, her ID book and an armful of clothes.

- PICS: Thousands homeless after fire

"Everything I worked so hard for is gone – just like that," the single mother said as she watched tractors flatten the blackened earth where her shack once stood.

"This was supposed to be an opportunity for me to give my boy a better life. Now we are even worse off than we were in Johannesburg three months ago."

Her home was one of 1 123 structures burnt to the ground early on Sunday morning when a blaze ripped through the township near Noordhoek, leaving more than 4 000 people displaced.

She was asleep when she heard shouting outside her home and smelled smoke in the air.

"When I looked out of my door, I saw flames this high," Dlulu said, holding her hand high above her head.

Up in flames

"My heart – it sank to my feet. I grabbed my son and my documents, threw some clothes over my arm and ran."

She watched from a distance as her home went up in flames.

"I work as a cook in a restaurant and I have spent all my money on making my home comfortable for me and my child. Now I have nothing. 

"All my furniture – my fridge, my TV and my microwave – is now lying between the burnt rubble. And I have no one here to help me."

She is among the hundreds of now homeless residents sleeping in the local community centre.

On Wednesday, children played on the piles of damaged furniture and debris while the land was prepared for the shacks to be rebuilt.

(Tammy Petersen, News24)

Response time ‘challenging’

Engineering services have prepared two-metre-wide fire breaks between blocks of structures to decrease the possibility of another blaze of this magnitude.

A new fire station is also being planned for Masiphumelele as the township was identified as an area where response time was "challenging".

Estimated to cost between R12m and R14m, it is expected to be completed by 2017.

The City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management is currently co-ordinating disaster relief efforts and is supplying three meals a day to those affected by the blaze.

The City will be providing the families with starter kits to help them rebuild their homes.

A safe space

Mtutuzeli Nyangane, 60, was proud of his home, "even if it was a shack".

"I worked hard for everything that was in it. It was a happy home," he said.

Mtutuzeli Nyangane speaks about his home that he lost. (Tammy Petersen, News24)          

He sat on a crate in the middle of the land where more than 1 000 shacks had stood when he went to bed on Saturday night.

"This is where my home was," he said.

"It was a safe space for me, my wife and my six children. This is where my home stood last week, now there is absolutely niks [nothing]."

When he heard his neighbours shouting “Fire!” that morning, he grabbed the first pair of shoes he could find.

“I ran to where the flames were to help. That’s what we do here in Masi – we stand together in times of distress,” he said.

'I have my family'

But while he was trying to douse the fire on the one end of the shackland, his own home caught alight.

"All I could grab was my TB medication and my ID," he said, patting his pocket.

"Everything else is gone. I have my family, but nothing else. Nothing."

On Wednesday, he was still wearing the smart shoes with the pointy nose, which were now scuffed and covered in dust.

He is currently living at his church.

"I used to go there to worship. Now I go there to sleep. But God is providing for me."

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Read more on:    cape town  |  fires

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