root - May 28, 2024

The Department of Home Affairs failed to send a mobile unit, preventing those who lost their documents from obtaining temporary IDs.

Peter Luhanga  

Hundreds of Dunoon residents won’t be able to vote in South Africa’s historic elections on Wednesday, as their ID cards were destroyed in a devastating shack fire in the Doornbach informal settlement on 6 May. 

The fire destroyed 150 shacks, leaving 360 residents without shelter, and crucial documents such as IDs. 

Following such fires in the past, the Department of Home Affairs would send a mobile unit so that people who had lost their belongings could obtain temporary IDs, but it has not done so in this case.  

Unable to afford the R42 return taxi fare from Dunoon to the nearest home affairs office in Cape Town, victims of the 6 May fire said they deeply disappointed at being unable to vote. This was not a choice, they said, but a result of financial constraints. 

Zolile Qina, whose home he shared with his wife and five children was reduced to ashes, said this is the first time since the first democratic elections in 1994, that he won’t vote. 

Qina said he managed to salvage three bags of clothes when their home started burning, but was unable to grab his family’s documents, including IDs. 

When Iliso labantu spoke to him on 25 May, he had rebuilt his shack using charred zinc sheets but hadn’t been able to erect partitioning for rooms and was trying to create a cement floor. 

“This is the first time since 1994 that I’ll not be able to vote,” said, adding that he did not have the money to travel to the home affairs office in the city to get a temporary ID. 

“It is not nice not to be able to vote when everyone is voting. Not being able to participate in the decision making process is painful,” said Qina.

He said he’d been living in the Doornbach informal settlement for 24 years, and unreliable refuse collection was one of the most pressing issues. Due to the filth, there was an abundance of rats and flies. 

“We vote with the hope that our quality of life will change but there is nothing even then that changes,” he said.

Nomagirls, his wife, said began voting in 1999 but, like her husband, she will also not be able to vote this year due to her ID having been burnt. 

 But Nomagirl said she just voted for the sake of voting. “It does not improve the quality of our living conditions,” she said.

Mbuyisi Yawa, 25, lost everything, including his ID when the one-room home he shared with his brother was destroyed by the fire. 

Yawa, who is registered to vote, said those who had lost their homes to the fire had been told the Department of Home Affairs would send a mobile unit to Doornbach so that temporary IDs, could be issued, but this never happened.

A preacher at the Saint Johns church in Dunoon, Mzwakhe Bekapi, said compiled a list of 31 people whose IDs had been burnt in the fire. Bekapi said he emailed the list to the Department of Home Affairs, but got no response. 

“I saw something painful and tried to assist,” he said.  

Home affairs spokesperson Siya Qoza said the City of Cape Town needed to submit a list of the fire victims to the department. Qoza said they were not aware of any such request from the City, adding: “It is a standard procedure. It starts with the City when the disaster happens.”  

City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management spokesperson Charlotte Powell said the City had submitted all names of the fire victims to the Department of Home Affairs and provided the reference number, SR33235.

Iliso labantu provided the reference number to Qoza, who said he would conduct a thorough check to establish whether it was received, but the process was going to awhile.

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