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Masiphumelele fire: As some move into temporary homes, thousands still homeless

National government availed about R35 million to ensure residents have a roof over their heads and at least 30 temporary homes are expected to be built every day.

Temporary homes were erected on the weekend of 9 and 10 January 2021 after a fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes in Masiphumelele just days before Christmas 2020. Picture: Lizell Persens/Eyewitness News

CAPE TOWN – While some Masiphumelele residents affected by a fire spent the weekend rebuilding their lives, thousands more are still waiting for their turn to do the same.

Ten emergency kits were erected at the site this past weekend, where a devastating fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes just days before Christmas last year.

National government availed about R35 million to ensure residents have a roof over their heads and at least 30 temporary homes are expected to be built every day.

Six-hundred-and-fifty-six units will be built at the site, while 420 more will be situated at a nearby sports field.

Officials from provincial and local government visited the fire-affected area on Sunday to monitor the progress.

Lwandiso Myeki is one of 6,000 Masiphumelele residents who lost everything he owned. He is patiently waiting for a place to call home.

“I lost everything; I’m on my own so I’m waiting for these people to build the houses so that I can start again. I hope they can do it fast so that we can lead a normal life.”

Thembisa Mali and her nine relatives moved into a temporary structure on Sunday. She told Eyewitness News that she was grateful, but expected more.

“They promised us nice temporary houses but as we see now, this is a bungalow with no floor and it’s windy and it’s so dusty.”

She was also concerned about her safety, as the wooden door only locked from the outside.

“It’s not safe because there are a lot of tsotsis in Masiphumelele - even inside there’s no latch for you to protect yourself.”

Housing officials have promised that 2,800 proper homes made with fire-resistant materials will be built in the area over a six to eight month period.

NGO, Living Hope, has been at the forefront of relief efforts – it ensures each emergency home is equipped with food hampers, blankets, mattresses, hygiene packs and more.

Meanwhile, the Taiwan informal settlement in Khayelitsha has officially been declared a local disaster area after a fire on New Year’s Day gutted about 350 homes, displacing more than 1,000 people.

The City of Cape Town's Malusi Booi said, “Taiwan has been declared a disaster area. A similar process will be taken – a process of making sure we get temporary structures.”

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