Town Two fire victims struggling to rebuild their lives

Residents queueing for clothes and electric appliances donated by SJC and EE. Photo by Qhama Mroleli

It has been 23 days since the fire and residents of Silvertown informal settlement are still battling to put their lives back together. They have not received disaster funds and identity documents and birth certificates they lost in the fire have still to be replaced.

Residents of Silvertown in Town Two who were victims of a fire that destroyed 342 households are struggling to rebuild their lives. The fire that started in the early hours of the 21st of October left one person dead and thousands of people homeless. Most of the residents who spoke to Elitsha said that they have not received disaster funds and Home Affairs has not replaced the documents that they lost in the fire.

Most also said that they lost most of the furniture and important documents like children’s birth certificates, identity documents and matric certificates. “We lost our bed, my grandchildren’s birth certificates and my husband’s building tools like spirit level,” said 58-year-old Nozilungelo Rhafisa. Rhafisa said that there was no one at her house when the fire started as they were attending the funeral of her mother-in-law in Lady Frere. “The two couches you see were donated by people from my church,” said the unemployed mother of four. “My husband and I do not work and we rely on one of my daughters who works for a seafood company.”

Like most of the homes that Elitsha visited, just a curtain separates the cooking area from the bedroom in Rhafisa’s shack. “We don’t have money to buy partition board to divide the shack or money to buy ceiling board,” she said.

Another resident, Bonisile Kele, similarly does not have the money to buy ceiling boards and wooden poles to divide his shack. He is a petrol attendant: “I get paid weekly and I have not been able to make a big dent in getting my life together again and the fact that I have two adults who depend on me doesn’t make things easy,” said Kele. “We have the electric boards installed but they are not connected yet.”

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“We are struggling to cook the the food that is donated because we do not have electricity in the houses yet,” complained 68-year-old Nofikile Jeyi. Like Rhafisa, she had furniture donated to her by her church.

When Elitsha visited the area, the Social Justice Coalition and Equal Education were distributing clothes and electrical appliances to the community. People waited in long queues for the donations just as they did a few days after the fire.

According to Thando Pimpi, ward councillor for ward 93, the local Home Affairs office will help the fire victims with birth certificates and smart ID cards on Thursday. “Home Affairs will be helping 150 fire victims a day with their IDs on Thursdays and we urge the community to be there at 7a.m.,” said Pimpi. He added that the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) will give disaster relief to those who have IDs: “We decided that we can’t delay anymore, those who have IDs should receive the fund,” he said.


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