Fire highlights conditions in Hangberg

Albert Williams above what remains of the small room where the fire started.

Hangberg residents affected by last week’s fire complained that there were inadequate water facilities to douse the flames prior to the arrival of firefighters.

The property shared by Albert Williams, his partner Hadley Newman and Albert’s brother Daniel, who died in the fire, was razed in the blaze in the early hours of Friday October 19.

“We had an outside tap in our yard, but the water pressure was completely gone. I am positive that if it was what we needed, we would have been able to stop the flames getting out of control,” Albert said.

The homes that were razed, displacing more than 90 people, fall within the Hangberg Improvement Development Area (HiDA).

For more than a decade, the roll-out of the HiDA housing project has been repeatedly stalled due to questions over proprietorship of land, either by the City of Cape Town or national government.

“The City needs to do something about the HiDA. The way people are living presents a danger to residents, as has been seen with this fire,” Albert said.

He said fire victims were grateful for the fire starter kits, including building materials for 3m x 3m shacks, but the City needed to understand people had lost their whole lives. “They (City) have been promising people for 12 years about the HiDA, but nothing happens. I can tell you that if the HiDA had been rolled out, there would not have been a fire. Most people here are respectable, hard-working people, but they have to stay in a shack because there’s no space for proper housing. The government is sitting on their a**es and doing nothing about it.”

Albert said Hout Bay felt like “apartheid in reverse”.

“Most of the people who stay here were born in Cape Town, in Hout Bay, but when fires happen in Imizamo Yethu, where people’s birth certificates say they were born in the Eastern Cape, the City is quick to help them. What about the people whose birth certificates say they were born in the Western Cape?”

Mr Newman also took issue with ward councillor Roberto Quintas, who he said had been addressing residents “like children” at the Hangberg civic centre where clothing donations and fire starter kits were being handed out.

“Rob Quintas doesn’t fit this position in Hout Bay. We were waiting and waiting for assistance, then he eventually comes here on Monday, and tells us to get moving like we’re kids,” he said.

Mr Quintas said on Monday October 23 that he had been overseeing two hand-overs to fire victims, one by the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and one by the DA Hout Bay branch.

“The CBC were handing out care packs comprising blankets and toiletries, and I was co-ordinating this with Beatrice Yon, Warren Abrahams and members of the HiDA committee. I had asked everyone to be there for this at 4pm. The DA Hout Bay was there for another delivery at 5pm.

“We had to ensure everyone got a fair share. The CBN had to deliver care packs to fire victims in other areas as well, so I called everyone together. While they were busy making their presentation, there were three or four people who were busy talking over the meeting. I then asked everybody to give the CBN members a chance to say what they needed to say.”

He said the CBN members then took photographs to document that they had performed their hand-over.

Mr Quintas said he had tried to get all the DA Hout Bay members to arrive on time, but many members were working and not all could make it on time.

“When they had arrived, I asked, ‘Hey guys, can you please come over here?’ I then saw some people leaving and I asked someone what was happening, and I was told they didn’t like the way they were being spoken to.

“There were some young people who said they had been waiting since 4.30pm, so I explained that some DA members were working, but thanked them for their patience.”

Specific questions relating to the HiDA project were put to the City. However, not all City officials were able to comment at the time this edition went to print.

Instead, Jean-Marie De Waal, senior media liaison officer at the City, said: “The informal settlement management staff assisted residents who were affected by the fire in Hangberg by providing them with enhanced fire kits.

“The enhanced kits now consist of 25 zinc sheets; 14 wooden poles, which are fire-treated; three packets of nails; a door; door hinges; a window frame and a window. These quality materials provide adequate and immediate shelter for destitute fire victims.”