CAPE TOWN – More than 300 fire victims living at an informal settlement in Langa have been left with no choice but to use buckets to relieve themselves, and dispose of the waste in the streets, due to non-existent sanitation.
On Wednesday morning a fire tore through the Zone 26 informal settlement, along Langalibalele Drive, which is Langa’s main thoroughfare.
Illegal connections to the nearby hostels are the only access residents have to electric power, most of which is in cables dug underground, one of which is believed to have caused the fire.
Resident Nonqaba Xhamle said an illegal connection to one of the shacks was the cause of a fire which resulted in 25 homes being razed to the ground on Wednesday, leaving about 200 people homeless.
The affected residents were left to the elements on Wednesday as a thunderstorm rolled through Cape Town.
“The rainy weather made it worse for the homeless families; others had to go to friends and families to keep them warmer,” said Xhamle.
She said Wednesday’s fire was the second in four months.
While conditions at the informal settlement were described as unhygienic, Xhamle said appeals to the City of Cape Town had fallen on deaf ears since 2013.
She said residents had been promised that they would be relocated to a Temporary Relocation Area (TRA) but they had been waiting since.
“During the day people ask neighbours if they can relieve themselves there, but at night they suffer,” she said, adding that when people used buckets at night, during the day they emptied the buckets in the streets.
“No company is contracted to collect our rubbish or waste; we live in our own filth,” said Xhamle.
Referring to the fire, she said she believed an electric box from the nearby hostels exploded and the fire spread to one of the houses in the informal settlement.
Nosicelo Botomane, who lost everything in the fire, said that until the community was provided with electricity, a fire could occur again.
“It’s 23 years since democracy and we live like pigs. This is unacceptable for a city that claims to care for its residents,” said Botomane.
“All we need are basic services, like any other informal settlement. Children are getting sick from diseases we don’t know and we suspect the dirtiness around here is the cause,” said Botomane.
The City’s fire and rescue services spokesperson, Liezl Moodie, confirmed the fire.
She said no injuries were reported and the disaster risk management department provided humanitarian relief to the affected residents.
The city’s mayco member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services and Energy, Xanthea Limberg, could not be reached for comment about lack of water supply, ablution facilities and electricity because she is apparently on leave.
Police spokesperson Andre Traut said his office was aware of the fire, “However no case docket was registered”.
Cape Times/Independent Online
PHOTO: More than 300 fire victims living at an informal settlement in Langa have had to use buckets to relieve themselves, due to non-existent sanitation. Picture: Facebook screengrab