Following a devastating fire that destroyed over 150 shacks and tragically claimed two lives, desperate residents of the TTS informal settlement in Town Two, Khayelitsha, are hard at work trying to rebuild their lives.
Human Settlements Department officials have been on the ground assessing the damage and trying to determine how to help.
City authorities say the loss of lives and properties is tragic but could have been avoided if people had refrained from settling on land that is unfit for human habitation. Residents say this is the second fire to hit the informal settlement in the last five years.
Many remember how a previous blaze in 2018 also left many without roofs over their heads. Braving scorching conditions, men were hard at work trying to rebuild with materials they managed to salvage from the fire rubble.
Mothers are worried about their children. This is especially true for matriculants, who started writing their final exams this week.
“Even uniform for my daughter, she has nothing, clothes, I only came out with a gown…documents everything I don’t have nothing here, only me, myself, my cell phone and my gown on me,” says a resident Siziwe Magxatyana.
“The shacks are built close together, so we don’t have a way to move the things when there is fire, so the shacks are built close to each other so when there’s fire we can’t move the bed everything. We just take some clothes because it was windy that day,” says another resident Akhona Hlazo.
An attempt by frustrated residents to invade a nearby tract of land which has been earmarked for development has been thwarted.
“I’m happy with the intervention. So they are waiting for the list from disaster in order that they can do an assessment, they’ve done the assessment, and taken pictures of everything. Now they are sending the list for the beneficiaries so that they must know how many people are affected; how many structures, their documents, IDs and everything,” says Ward 93 councillor Thando Pimpi.
City authorities say they are working with the provincial government to prevent illegal invasion of the nearby site so that there are no delays in development.
“It’s a site where the city has given power of attorney over its land to the Provincial Government MEC simmers and the Department of Infrastructure, they are leading a relocation programme which will de-densify and create safer spaces within town two, we are looking at about 700 opportunities for relocation and that’s why it was so important to get the court interdict so that is the major project underway but this speaks to a broader question for human settlements that illegal occupation of land, and particularly of land that isn’t suitable for human habitat is causing an array of issues from floods to fires to lack services,” says MAYCO Member of Human Settlements, Carl Pophaim.
Authorities say about 144 people remain displaced.