Dozens of families still homeless a month after Durban shack fire

While waiting for building material, fire victims have been living in the community hall or with neighbours

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This is the community hall where many fire victims from the Kennedy Road informal settlement have been staying since July. Photos: Tsoanelo Sefoloko

A month after more than a thousand shacks were gutted in a fire at Kennedy Road informal settlement in Durban, many of the affected families are yet to rebuild their homes.

The eThekwini Municipality has begun giving building material to many fire victims, but scores still remain cramped in the community hall or squatting in the front rooms of their neighbour’s homes. The fire in July, residents say, was the second to hit the informal settlement this year. On 20 May, 76 shacks were burnt down in a fire.

Thuthula Gwexa is a single parent to two young children. They lost all their belongings, including school uniforms and stationery. Gwexa is one of the households who was lucky to already get material from the City to rebuild her home. “I am happy that I have received the building materials to build my shack again. Thank you to the municipality and Abahlali BaseMjondolo leaders for providing me with uniforms for my children,” said Gwexa.

Another fire victim, Lungile Shandu is among those still waiting for help to rebuild. “Some people are getting materials, so that always gives me hope that one day my name will be on the list as well. I am now sharing a room with my neighbour because she has rebuilt her shack,” said Shandu.

The eThekwini municipality is still in the process of handing out building material to affected families whose shacks burnt down last month.

Ward 25 councillor Themba Mkhize said the problem is that there is no vacant land available to build brick houses for all the affected families. “We have found land in Barton Place to build RDP houses. The project started a long time ago. Residents will have to wait for the project to be completed to see if they qualify,” said Mkhize.

Sibusiso Zikode, president of Abahlali BaseMjondolo said, the organisation has been prioritising getting school essentials to affected children.

“It is so sad that our municipality does not care about the community in shacks. We don’t see any will from the side of the municipality to build proper houses for residents,” said Zikode.

Municipal spokesperson Gugu Sisilana said Kennedy road is one of the largest and most densely populated informal settlements within eThekwini, with approximately 3,000 shacks. “Our disaster management teams were on hand to assist with all cases, and a report has been circulated to other stakeholders for their interventions,” said Sisilana.

TOPICS:  Fire Housing

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