Fire victims sleep outside to guard salvaged metal sheets

Elizabeth Mutlanyana lost everything in the fire which swept through the Hadji Ebrahim informal settlement on Sunday evening. Behind her is Bennet Pofadder, who also lost all his belongings.
Quetucer Rowbotham and Nadia Jood stand on the spot where Ms Rowbotham’s house once was.

Desperate families who lost all their belongings in a fire that swept through the Hadji Ebrahim informal settlement in Belgravia, chose to sleep outside over the past few days, to guard the few remaining metal sheets they still have.

The fire started on Sunday February 14, just before 8pm. One man died in the blaze, which also destroyed 31 wood and iron structures and left 123 people displaced.

Ward 48 councillor, Magedien Davids, said he wanted to make arrangements for the affected families to stay at a community hall, but they refused, as “they wanted to guard the little they have left”.

The City of Cape Town no longer offers emergency building kits to residents if the area has not been declared a disaster area. The mayoral committee member for human settlements, Malusi Booi, said this was because of the national government’s budget cuts.

He said the grant the City received from the national department of human settlements to provide this service had been cut.

Resident Elizabeth Mutlanyana said although it was cold sleeping outside, they don’t have much choice, as some salvaged building material had already been stolen.

“I lost everything, including my identity document (ID). I only have the clothes I am wearing. My 19-year-old daughter also lost her ID and she is supposed to register for college now. The municipality said they cannot give us building material, so we have to look after our stuff that is left,” Ms Mutlanyana said.

Bennett Pofadder said he saw the flames as he was walking back home on Sunday evening and tried to save his belongings, but could not.

Quetucer Rowbotham was outside waiting for her mother-in-law, who was going to take her husband to hospital, when the fire started.

“When I turned around, I saw the fire, but it was too late to save any of our stuff. My eight-month old baby wore her vest only. The clothes we are wearing is the only thing we have left,” said the mother of seven.

The City’s Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson, Jermaine Carelse, said the cause of the fire was unknown and was being investigated.

The City appealed to the public to assist the fire victims with food parcels, blankets, baby packs, clothing and building material.

To donate, contact Christa Liebenberg, the Sub-council 17 manager, at 021 444 0500, or 084 629 3330, or email