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.
Two people have been killed in a fire that destroyed dozens of shacks in Alexandra on Saturday night.
One-year-old girl and a 30-year-old man were burnt beyond recognition in the devastating fire.
Johannesburg Emergency Management Services Spokesperson, Robert Mulaudzi, says an investigation is underway to determine the cause of the fire.
“The multiple shack fire incident happened at 8th Avenue London road around 22h00 (Saturday), two people lost their lives. We encourage our residents to be careful when using heating appliances that may cause fire at home.”
At least 20 homes were destroyed in the incident.
Fires are prone in the township.
In August, three people lost their lives in a fire that torched about 200 shacks.
The cause of that inferno remains unknown but emergency services suspected heating devices, which were left unattended.
The public is urged to donate to the Free State Agriculture’s (FSA) disaster fund to assist farmers who have lost livestock and had their infrastructure destroyed by wildfires.
Animal feed or cash will be accepted.
According to the Farmers’ Weekly, the fires, fanned by strong winds, have destroyed nearly 100 000ha in the western Free State since the weekend.
The fires reportedly started on Sunday when service delivery protesters burned tyres on the R708 road between Hertzogville and Christiana.
Flames from the burning tyres are thought to have spread to the surrounding veld, from where they fanned out to Hertzogville, Boshof, Bultfontein and Hoopstad, according to Gys Olivier, chairperson of the Hertzogville District Farmers’ Union – who spoke to the Farmers’ Weekly.
He described the burnt areas as something akin to a lunar landscape, “eerily quiet and devoid of life”.
However, Olivier said the affected farmers were heartened by all the support that had poured in.
“I have to commend the Working on Fire teams for doing their utmost to contain the inferno. The assistance we received from all sides gave us the courage and resolve to stay positive. The affected districts functioned in a unified manner, forging ahead to fight the inferno. It goes without saying that we are hurt and shocked to the core, but we are not without hope,” he said.
While the cost of the damage caused by the inferno is not yet known, one Hertzogville farmer is said to have lost R900 000 worth of livestock, and the damage to the infrastructure on his farm is R3 million.
The Free State Agriculture has reportedly made R100 000 available from its disaster fund for the transportation of animal feed to the affected areas.
Those who want to donate are urged to call Elaine Olivier on 082 787 9660 or deposit money to the disaster fund at Absa’s account 470 940 670. The reference for the donation is Ramp.
The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture has called on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister, Thoko Didiza, to declare affected places as disaster areas.
“We commend the farmers and farming communities for saving lives and ensuring that there are no casualties, and for acting swiftly to prevent further devastation and decimation of property,” says the committee in a statement.
Chairperson Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela added: “We trust that the investigation will rule out the possibility of arson as it is inconceivable why anyone would want to cause such widespread destruction.”
Limpopo authorities are urging community members who are facing domestic challenges to seek help instead of resorting to violence.
Provincial Police Commissioner, Lt Genl Nneke Ledwaba and the Social Development MEC Nkakareng Rakgoale’s, remarks come after two children and their father died in a suspected suicide in Nkowankowa, Tzaneen.
It is suspected that the father, who had separated from the children’s mother, had set the house on fire.
The Statistics South Africa District Manager Gladwin Mboweni reportedly died of smoke inhalation while his children were burnt beyond recognition.
Police say the nine and 13 year-old girls were found in separate rooms in the house.
They have been identified as Minkateko and Tsakane Mboweni.
The children’s mother is receiving psycho-social support from the department of social development.
Police have opened two cases of murder and an inquest.