South Africa

Cemetery View shack dwellers snub relocation after fatal fire

Residents of the Cemetery View informal settlement have refused to be relocated and started rebuilding their homes less than a day after at least 300 shacks burned down and three people are known to have died.

Saturday’s inferno at Cemetery View, behind the Woodlands mall and near the Pretoria East cemetery, was the second fire there after 400 shacks burned down in March last year.

Cemetery View resident Florina Ndlovu said she heard people screaming when the fire broke out on Saturday.

“I lost everything. My shack also burned down,” she said.

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Ndlovu said she would have to sleep under a tree tonight because she didn’t have the money to rebuild her shack.

Vusi Ramonti, who had been living in Cemetery View for three years, also lost his shack in the fire.

“Fire is fire, it’s dangerous, and we all started running. It was crazy,” he said.

Ramonti, a plastic recycler, said he only had the clothes on his back left. Tshepo Mohapi said he watched helplessly as the shack went up in smoke.

“I was so worried about the children. It was so scary,” he said.

Informal settlement shack fires
Cemetery informal settlement residents rebuild their shacks after a fire on 25 September 2023. Picture: Neil McCartney / The Citizen

Services provided

City of Tshwane spokesperson Selby Bokaba said the metro would continue to provide rudimentary services in the form of chemical toilets and water.

“Despite the city’s offer to assist the victims and reduce the burden of difficulty they’ve endured since the fire broke out on Saturday, they’re adamant that they will not relocate and will instead rebuild their structures, a process which started last evening and is ongoing.”

Bokaba said the city’s emergency services had responded to a raging fire.

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“On Sunday evening, the city availed four buses to transport the residents to temporary accommodation venues arranged at the Stanza Bopape Hall in Mamelodi East, as well as at the community hall in Mamelodi West.

“But the buses returned to the depot empty after the residents refused to board them,” he said.

Bokaba said the city’s human settlements department provided the residents with three 5 000-litre JoJo tanks, 13 chemical toilets, serviced twice a week, and a 10 000-litre mobile water tanker.

‘Hectic weekend’

Tshwane Emergency Services spokesperson Charles Mabaso said it had been a hectic weekend in the metro because Cemetery View was not the only informal settlement which caught fire.

“The Cemetery View fire broke out on Saturday around 8.19pm and was initially reported as a grass fire. When the despatch vehicle arrived at the scene, they just saw flames,” he said.

Mabaso said on arrival, multiple shacks were burning and emergency services worked until Sunday to extinguish the fire.

Three victims, a child and two adults, were discovered burned beyond recognition, he said.

Mabaso said more than 300 shacks were burned down.

Informal settlement shack fires
Cemetery informal settlement residents rebuild their shacks after a fire on 25 September 2023. Picture: Neil McCartney / The Citizen

On Sunday, a second fire broke out in Lyttelton.

“At 23.59 we received a call of multiple shacks on fire at Sportspark informal settlement in Lyttelton,” he said.

Mabaso said 60 shacks had burned down with no injuries reported. The causes of the fires were being investigated.

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