Months after deadly fire, Gazine residents still waiting on promised housing

It’s been almost five months and there's still no houses in sight – instead, residents in Gazine live in makeshift tents, exposed to dust and wind.

Nearly five after a devastating fire, Gazine informal settlement residents are still living in tents despite being promised proper housing by the City of Johannesburg. Picture: Boikhutso Ntsoko/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Residents of the Gazine informal settlement in Johannesburg are frustrated by the municipality's failure to keep a promise to relocate them to proper housing.

A fire in a parking garage near the Kwa Mai Mai market in the CBD in April affected about 100 shacks and left 10 people dead and 24 injured.

Hundreds of people were displaced.

It’s been almost five months and there's still no houses in sight – instead, residents in Gazine live in makeshift tents, exposed to dust and wind.

- Gazine fire victim recalls helplessness of watching pregnant friend die in blaze
- CoJ secures mobile kitchens for fire-hit Gazine informal settlement residents

Currently, over 215 people live in what has been dubbed "Ematendeni", meaning the tents.

Residents have spoken of how unbearable living conditions are.

"The problem that we have now is that nothing is moving forward. We don't know anymore. I don't want to lie, it's not nice living here. The first time we got here, we were told by the housing department to wait for two to three months. We are not comfortable. If they can just hurry up and try to move us from here as they promised they would."

Eyewitness News visited the site where the new structures are to be built - there is a graded piece of land with nothing else besides markings indicating where each house is to be built.

Walking through what used to be white tents, there’s a feeling of disappointment seeing the dire need in the community.

One resident recalled how his son survived last month’s fire.

"It was on the 15th of April in the early hours of the morning when I got a call that my son had sustained burn wounds and was in hospital. I was told that he was in ICU. To this day I'm not OK. He was burned badly - his head, face, his entire back, his arms and both his legs. He can never forget what happened to him because these marks are a constant reminder of what happened that day."

WATCH: ‘This is not life at all’ - Residents stuck in tents months after building fire

Almost three months ago, the municipality’s Zanele Melusi told Eyewitness News that the residents would only be living in tents for a maximum period of two months.

Its been 138 days since the residents of Gazine informal settlement were promised proper housing by the City of Johannesburg’s housing department.

The Gazine ward councilor, though, maintains that the Johannesburg housing department is still on top of a process to relocate residents, despite delays.

Ward councilor, Vusi Zondi, said that the city was doing all it could to ensure that residents were taken care of.

"We are on top of it and then what I know, the way they live, according to how I see it, I don't see a problem because even Pikitup is participating and cleaning the place and there are different NGOs donating to them on our side. It's not as if we are relaxing, we are working, it's just the paperwork that is taking time, so that is the delay."

Following repeated requests from Eyewitness News for an update, Housing MMC Mlungisi Mabaso eventually admitted to the delays.

"I understand their frustration, truly speaking, because nothing happened after they were relocated to the tents. The reality is that we had to make sure that we did everything, following the process to the letter so that when we embark on these processes we don't encounter any challenges in the implementation phase."

It’s been 138 days since the residents of the Gazine informal settlement lost their loved ones, homes and belongings, while the city’s housing department still says that it will make good on its promises.

Download the Eyewitness News app to your iOS or Android device.