New hope for Kwa-Mathambo community

The residents of the settlement hired an excavator to clear the rubble left by the blaze.

RESIDENTS of the Kwa-Mathambo Informal Settlement are finally able to start rebuilding their lives after a devastating fire ripped through 40 of the shacks located on Old North Coast Road more than two weeks ago. Hundreds were left homeless after the blaze.

Left only with the clothes on their backs, the locals managed to scrape together 20 per cent of the funds needed to start the construction process, said Ndodeni Dengo, community representative.

As the funds were not enough to purchase the materials or hire the equipment needed for the project, the community has been forced to rely on the shelter provided by the city’s Disaster Management Unit.

However, through a recent donation from the SA Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI) Alliance, the community was able to start the project last week.

Community representative, Ndodeni Dengo, said the community was eager to get their lives back on track.

Community representative, Ndodeni Dengo, said the community was eager to get their lives back on track.

While the blaze claimed almost all of the victims’ belongings, Dengo said it now provided the community with an opportunity to start with a clean slate and to implement a re-blocking system of the settlement that had been planned since last year.

“With the re-blocking system we hope to open up the spaces so that the shacks are no longer connected and that there are pathways between the houses to allow people easy access to and from their homes. Should we ever experience another fire, people will be able to flee quicker and be able to salvage their belongings,” he said.

Also planned in the new project are proper drainage systems and ablution facilities.

“Rain is a big problem. Every time it rains, people’s homes are flooded. We hope that drainage systems will guide waster down the embankment and underneath the shacks,” he said.

The re-blocking project was proposed in October last year after residents of the settlement said they grew tired of the city’s empty promises. Following a similar fire is 2013, which destroyed 270 shacks at the settlement, the municipality promised to build houses for the community.

While the city honoured its promise to some of the families who lost their homes during the blaze, the 43 shacks that survived the fire were left stagnant and unattended.

Last year, Nomusa Khumalo, a member of the settlement’s committee, told the Northglen News that residents had made several desperate pleas to the City to improve their living conditions; however, these appeals have fallen on deaf ears.

The situation escalated in May when the community executed an illegal land invasion, building 15 shacks on municipal land while blocking North Coast Road with burning material.

Mariclair Smit

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