Painting to protect shacks

Lesego Masite, a volunteer from a tobacco company, helped to paint the shacks in Bonteheuwel .

Bonteheuwel’s backyarders can sleep easier after their shacks were painted in fire retardant paint.

Staff from a tobacco company and residents working for non-profit Khusela Ikhaya Project, painted the shacks on Friday May 11.

The fire-retardant paint forms a heat shield when exposed to extreme heat, slowing the spread of a fire.

This not only gives fire victims time to escape but it also improves the chances of the fire brigade getting to the blaze before it causes too much damage in a neighbourhood.

According to Khusela Ikhaya spokesman, Ashley Stemmett, there are some 3500 backyarders in Bonteheuwel, and fire is an ever-present danger among the closely packed shacks.

“The Bonteheuwel project is a first for us, as we have mainly focussed on informal settlements and not backyarders.”

But they now hope to help backyarders with funding from the tobacco company.

So far, the project has painted nearly 2000 homes across the Cape Peninsula.

By Monday May 21, 75 homes had been painted in Bonteheuwel including a nursery school.

Khusela Ikhaya gives residents basic fire-safety training while helping to change perceptions about informal settlements and the people who call them home.

Stormers rugby player and project ambassador, Scarra Ntubeni, said: “When volunteers get to meet the moms, dads, sisters, grandmothers, aunts and uncles living here, they can more readily empathise with a family who loses loved ones or their entire home and all belongings in matter of minutes to fire.

“Fire has a huge impact on their lives – and on these community at large.”

Few people realised a home could burn down in just three minutes.

“This is a cause I feel strongly about. Every year, 110 lives are lost to these fires. Educating the youth on harm reduction is extremely important,” he said.

Bonteheuwel Backyarders Fo-
rum’s vice chairwoman, Elizabeth Lingerveldt, said the residents were thrilled with their new paint jobs.

“They are very happy and they keep on asking when the rest of the shacks will be painted. They are very grateful,” she said.