One person dead, 538 left without homes after blaze

Jamie Petersen

Another blaze engulfed homes in Imizamo Yethu last week – leaving 538 people homeless, 128 homes destroyed and at least one person dead.

The fire broke out at around 10.45pm last week Friday.

Theo Layne, spokesperson for Fire and Rescue Services, said they responded to the fire shortly after midnight on Saturday February 27. He said the cause of the fire was suspected arson.

It is believed that the fire was started in Xolani Mafenuka’s shack. Mr Mafenuka, 34, who worked as a fisherman in Hout Bay and lived with his brother and another men, died in the blaze.

Police spokesperson, Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch, said following an inquest into the cause of the fire, a 21-year-old woman has been arrested. Investigations are currently under way to determine if she had anything to do with the cause of the fire, and Mr Mafenuka’s death.

This is the second time this year that a fire has ravaged the township and left residents with nothing.

Last month, 60 homes were destroyed and 240 residents were left homeless. In December more than a thousand people were left homeless and one dead, after a fire ripped through the Mandela Park region in Imizamo Yethu.

On Sunday February 28 the City of Cape Town handed out emergency kits to the victims which consist of nails, poles, roof sheets, doors, windows and a padlock.

Imizamo Yethu resident Andries Martin, 24, told the Sentinel News he’s lost his home to a fire close to 10 times now. He works as a fisherman and moved to South Africa from Namibia in 2011.

He suggested that there be more spaces between shacks. “The problem is the houses are too close, that’s why the fires are so bad,” he said.

Letisia Shapumba, 27, also from Namibia, has been living in Imizamo Yethu since 2008. This is the first time she’s lost a house to a shack fire. She said she was only able to save blankets and some clothes. “We took things from inside the house and put it somewhere else,” she said.

Melissa Dolan, provincial training, marketing and communications co-ordinator for the provincial branch of the South African Red Cross Society, said they responded to the fire on Saturday morning after 7am.

They provided the residents with relief items such as blankets and baby packs for small children. She added that they also gave out meals throughout the day. “We give them meals for three days, while they are still re-building.”

Once the rebuilding has ended, the Red Cross Society also provides the victims with counselling services, to help them deal with the traumatic experience.