The Mandela Park community has been rocked after losing one of their own in a shack fire earlier this week.
The community were awoken by cries for help from Joseph Cele’s shack in Aggett Street. His neighbours had dragged his burnt body out of the burning shack, before he was transported to hospital and was later pronounced dead.
Jermaine Carelse, the spokesman for the City’s Fire and Rescue Service confirmed that units from Hout Bay, Constantia and Wynberg had responded to the fire, which had only affected the late Mr Cele’s shack.
Mr Carelse said Mr Cele had been transported to a hospital for treatment and that there was “no indication” as to what started the fire.
Mr Cele had been working as a Supervisor for Deep Blue Security since 2017 and served areas such as Scott Estate, Penzance Estate, Beach Estate, Northshore and Harbour Heights. He was described by friends as a “caring man with a big heart, always with a smile on his face”.
Living a few metres away and a close friend of Mr Cele is Leon Makaleni, who also serves as a community leader. He described the news of the death of his friend and co-worker as “heartbreaking”.
“We have lost a good man and we will surely miss him so much. He was my very good friend and we also the Supervisor where I work,” he said.
Mr Makaleni recalls the night he heard the cries for help, waking up and rushing out to see Mr Cele’s home in flames.
“My nephew actually ran into the house to get Mr Cele and we then eventually dragged him out of the fire and he had very bad burns already and he looked really bad,” Mr Makaleni explained.
The fire department had not been on the scene at the time, prompting Mr Makaleni to jump in a vehicle and attempt to fetch the fire truck at the station, before returning to attend to his friend.
“They rushed him to Tygerberg Hospital for further treatment, but we sadly got the news that he had passed on,” Mr Makaleni said.
Siphenathi Kekane put his life on the line and ran into the burning shack to retrieve Mr Cele’s badly burnt lifeless body.
“I was not thinking about anything at the time. When I heard the call for help and I knew my friend was inside, I just ran into the shack to save him,” he said.
Those scenes are proving to be too much for the local hero, as the badly burnt images of Mr Cele’s body haunts him.
“I am struggling because of what I have seen. It was very bad and now we are sad because we have lost our friend. I think I will need help to get these images out of my head,” Mr Kekane said.
Mr Cele’s family are in the Eastern Cape and his girlfriend was not ready to speak to the Sentinel News.
“She is still not ready, because it is really difficult news for her. His family is not from here, they all live up country in the Eastern Cape and we are in the process of trying to notify them because we will have to make funeral arrangements,” Mr Makaleni explained.
Fellow community leader, Kenny Tokwe, said there was a calmness over the community, a sign of a community in mourning.
“We as a community are worried about the death of a young man because of the fire. Better living condition is the only solution to this,” he said.
He said people staying in Aggett Street were living a “nightmare”.
“That area is full of dead tree stumps. I got the call about the fire and after the fire was put out, the stumps was still burning and we had to call the fire department out again,” Mr Tokwe said.
The Hout Bay Community Police Forum confirmed that Hout Bay security providers will be doing a white light parade today (Friday July 16), starting at 6.30pm, where they will light some candles and observe a moment of silence before driving through the areas, which Mr Cele once served.
The Hout Bay Community Police Forum posted on their Facebook page: “Our deepest condolences go out to the family, friends and colleagues of Joseph.”