More than 70 families are now homeless after a fire destroyed their homes in the Marikana Land Occupation in Cato Crest, KwaZulu-Natal.

The inferno broke out in the early hours of Sunday morning.

According to the shack dwellers movement, Abahlali Basemjondolo, most residents – who are the organisation’s members – were not at home when the tragedy struck at around 5 a.m.

“Many are away in the rural areas with their families who they have not seen for a long time as a result of the lockdown. These families will be coming back to ashes in what used to be their homes. All the families were unable to take out their possessions or save their building materials. They lost everything.”

The organisation says the situation is dire for most of the families in the area as they have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus lockdown, which has had a devastating impact on the economy.

“To us happiness is a dream even at a time when people are in joyous times. Our movement has been working to politicise the understanding of shack fires for 15 years. They are not accidents or tragedies. They are a direct result of oppression. We are left to burn because we do not count as human beings to this society and this government. Apart from facing the economic decline, job losses and the pandemic we in the shacks are facing fires which leaves us destitute. This is because decent housing and services are not provided,” it says.

The organisation is appealing for urgent assistance from the public.

“We urgently need building materials in the form zinc, poles, etc. so that we can rebuild our homes and our lives. We also need clothes and food for the kids.”

No injuries or fatalities have so far been reported.

Efforts to get hold of the Ethekwini municality drew blank at the time of publishing.

However, the police have confirmed that disaster management officials have been dispatched to the area.