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Zille: Alcohol linked to shack fires

WC Premier Helen Zille says alcohol abuse is one of the major contributors to shack fires.

The City of Cape Town is assisting 90 families rebuilding their shacks following a fire. Picture: Siyabonga Sesant/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Western Cape Premier Helen Zille says it is going to take a long time before everyone gets a house so they are looking at ways to prevent shack fires in informal settlements.

Over the weekend, a n 18-month-old boy with disabilities died in a shack fire in Grassy Park.

The child was home alone when the fire started.

Several people have been killed in shack fires in the last few months.

Professor Andy Dawes has since written to Zille and Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille asking them to prevent deadly shack fires in Masiphumelele.

Speaking to 567 CapeTalk, Zille said she replied to the letter on the same day.

She also said alcohol abuse was one of the contributors of shack fires.

"Many fires can be tracked down to the fact that people either to cook something or to light something and then they go to sleep because they aren't sober. The candle falls over or the flame spreads and their shack burn down. They are in a drunken stupor so they don't wake up and they die."

However, she says that is not always the case.

"Far too often children are left alone by people who've gone to the shebeens and that kind of tragedy also happens there."

Zille says the City of Cape Town has several programmes to deal with illegal shebeens while others are aimed at introducing extramural activities to keep children away from shebeens.

"The shebeens are also the source of income for tens of thousands of people and so we have to introduce zoning that give people the right to sell alcohol in decent, safe places. And then we have to remove the shebeens from the residential areas."

She also admitted that it will take a while before shacks can be properly eradicated.

"The fact is with the rate of urbanisation and the housing backlog is going to be a long time before most people gets a house. So in the meantime we may as well get people safe."

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