By Sibahle Ngemntu and Asiphesona Wonqwelo
A fire broke out on 15 June at around 3pm at 26 L Street, Tantyi, leaving a family of five homeless and with nothing left to get them through the winter. According to the residents of the house, the fire started because rain leaked through the roof of the house onto a faulty and exposed plug. However, a statement from the Fire Department says the cause of the fire has not been determined.
The family could not save anything from the fire, and they blame the Makhanda water crisis. They told Grocott’s Mail that if there had been water in the taps, the neighbours would have been able to help stop the fire.
Lizeka Danster, a resident of the burnt house, said the family had reported the exposed plug and other things that needed to be repaired to their landlord, but he would never fix them. According to Danster, the landlord came to the house the day before the fire to photograph everything that need to be repaired, but the repairs had not been carried out at the time of the fire.
Fortunately, nobody was at home when the fire broke out and there were no injuries. Some of the family members had just left the house when the fire started, 10 minutes later. “We left and we did not even sit down before we were told that the house is burning,” said Danster, who is unemployed after having previously held a job at a spaza shop.
Another resident of the house, Sikelelwa Mpangiso, said she was at work when the fire began. “I heard about the fire when my children came to my work and told me that the house was burning. I quickly went home” said Mpangiso. She added that she was devastated because everything that belonged to her, her sister, and her three children was destroyed in the fire, including the children’s school uniform, blankets, birth certificates, beds, her identity documents, and much more. “It is hard. I don’t even know where to start. We are only left with the clothes that we are wearing,” said Mpangiso.
A man who lives in the other house in the yard said he noticed the fire after his electricity tripped and he went to switch it off. He tried to get in to throw water on the flames, but the door was locked. By the time Danster arrived, she says the fire was huge. “The man came with a bottle of water and soon realized that there was nothing he could do,” she said. The fire brigade came as quickly as they could after being called, but the fire had already spread all over the house.
According to Kelello Makgoka, Makana Municipality’s Director of Public Safety and Community Services, the house was already ablaze by the time firefighters arrived and it collapsed during the firefighting operation. Cupboards, clothing, beds, books, a stove, a kettle, and a fryer were all destroyed, Makgoka said.
Community members came together to offer support to the family by providing clothes and money to buy food. Sikelelwa Mpangiso can be contacted at 071 037 6123 if readers would like to assist with any household goods.
An Anti-Crime group spokesperson said the organisation was liaising with the provincial Human Settlements department in a bid to secure a temporary, pre-fabricated room for the family.