root - April 9, 2024

Peter Luhanga  

Mothers and young children are among 158 families who have been left homeless and destitute after a raging fire swept through their Cape Town informal settlement, destroying 71 shacks on Easter Sunday.

The fire raged through Doornbach, Kwa 5 informal settlement opposite Dunoon on 31 March. Fortunately, there were no injuries or fatalities. The cause of the fire is not known.

Simon Hlatana, 45, who has been living in Doornbach since 2000, shares his two-room shack with his wife and son. Hlatana recalls that on Saturday night, just after 11 pm, he heard panicked screams from people saying shacks were burning. He says he woke up and staggered outside to investigate. He saw a commotion and hot flames licking the walls of his neighbours’ shacks.

“I was unable to salvage anything. We just came out alive. Everything: IDs, bank cards, phones, has been burnt,” he says. “We don’t have a place to stay. We’re staying at a friend’s shack with my wife and my son”.

He says he was unable to start rebuilding promptly and planned to start on Easter Monday, straightening the charred zinc and recycling them to rebuild his new home.

“Financially I can’t rebuild now. I’ll make a plan to straighten the burnt zinc sheets to re-build,” he says.

Velisile Jela, 50, a father of two children, the youngest being three years old, shared his two-room shack with his wife and children. But their home has been reduced to ashes. Jela says when he heard residents panicking, he went outside and saw dark smoke. He quickly went back inside to take his children and wife to safety. He was able to salvage a few items of clothing but larger household belongings such as furniture and fridges were burnt in the blaze.

“I managed to salvage birth certificates, SASSA cards and IDs. It is painful, a lot of things have been burnt and it is Easter,” he says.

He says he also planned to utilise the burnt and twisted zinc sheet to rebuild his home, but did not know where to start.

City of Cape Town Disaster Risk Management spokesperson Sonica Lategan confirmed 158 people have been left vulnerable and destitute by the blaze.

“Our humanitarian organisations, Gift of the Givers, will provide blankets, food and toiletries,” said Lategan. 

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