South Africa: Home Not-So-Sweet Home for Fire Survivors

It’s a shantytown, where mothers and children will live in one-room shacks with a single window to let in the light. There is no electricity and no running water. There is a cluster of bucket toilets near the shacks.

This is where the city is housing survivors of the Marshalltown fire.

Most of the new residents are single women and their children – and many fear for the worst.

The site the city developed to house victims of the fire was originally purchased for R45 million to be used as a pound. According to sources from the city who spoke to Scrolla.Africa in previous interviews, the pound could not open because the area is rife with crime.

This was evident when the old Nampack building on the site was stripped by vandals.

The Marshalltown survivors will only occupy a small portion of the settlement. So far, 17 of the fire victims who were accommodated at a shelter in Bez Valley have occupied the new shacks. There are 10 more at the temporary shelter who will be given their homes at a later stage.

Meanwhile the site holds more than 200 zinc shacks.

Siphiwe Ngcobo, 38, is relieved to be there. She will be staying with her 20-year-old son and her five-year-old daughter. She said although the conditions are terrible, she is happy to have a room of her own.

“The hall we were staying in at the temporary shelter in Bez Valley was inhumane,” she said. “We lived like sardines with no privacy. At least now I can be alone in my room when my children go to school.”

Siyabonga Sibeko, 39, said “The government should have done better by giving us a proper and decent place to stay. This place has no shops nearby. But we don’t have an alternative choice. We will stay here because we don’t have anywhere else to go.”

He is now on his own. His wife and children left after the fire to return to their village in Mpumalanga. “I stayed behind so that I could look for a job to support my family. Life is hard.”

He said everything went up in flames in his room at Marshalltown. “I was left with nothing. I have nothing.”

Most foreign nationals who survived the fire were transported on Wednesday to the Jeppe police station prior to being deported.

Nondumiso Sithole said she had been staying in Marshalltown with her Tanzanian boyfriend.

“Authorities have told me that the father of my children should not come here. I don’t know how I will support the children because I am not working,” she said. She will share a shack with their four children.

Security personnel will remain at the site to guard the shacks, both those that are occupied and the majority which are empty, night and day.

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