Preliminary investigations by the City of Cape Town reveal that the disastrous Masiphumelele fire, which broke out on Thursday evening [December 17] and destroyed over 1000 homes, was likely caused by an attempted land invasion.

While visiting Masiphumelele on Monday [December 21] to check on the progress of clearing the site, Executive Mayor Dan Plato announced that more than 5000 people have been displaced due to an attempted land invasion where reeds were set alight to clear land, leading to the massive fire.

“Disaster management officials have announced that this fire was likely caused by an attempted land invasion. It is shameful that a humanitarian disaster, resulting in the total loss of people’s homes and belongings, has been caused by criminal elements. Because of this criminality, thousands will now spend their Christmas having to rebuild their structures,” said Plato.

“I strongly urge anyone with information to come forward to bring those responsible to book as we must send a strong message to discourage this criminal behaviour from affecting the lives and well-being of our residents.”

A devastating fire broke out in the Masiphumele informal settlement near Fish Hoek late on Thursday evening, destroying about 1300 informal dwellings. The fire was fueled by gale force winds, causing it to grow beyond control and rip through the area at lightning speed.

A fire 🔥 that started late afternoon has left about 5000 people homeless tonight in my area Masiphumelele.

Those that…

Posted by Banda Jnr on Thursday, 17 December 2020

On December 18, one day after the fire, Plato signed the Local Disaster Declaration to begin a process to access relief funding from the national government in terms of Section 55 of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act 57 of 2002).

In terms of the R18 million relief funding application, this would include the fire kits, re-establishing electricity connections and water infrastructure.

The process for a disaster declaration is well under way and was confirmed with Western Cape Local Government MEC Anton Bredell, who indicated that the request will be tabled at a full cabinet meeting on Tuesday [December 22].

A multi-agency and department response has been ongoing at the site to ensure an urgent response to the residents’ plight:

– Four bulldozers are on site, clearing the significant volume of debris, which has been complicated by the fact that it is in a wetland, making the ground soft and difficult for these heavy duty vehicles to manoeuvre. However, Solid Waste Management Department officials are making good progress at clearing the affected site, which has now been 80% cleared.

– The City’s Informal Settlements Management Department has worked non-stop to screen and register 1300 fire-affected heads of household thus far. All the members of the households have been verified as well. The process has been completed. The Informal Settlements Management Department continues to assist with queries on site. The registration process includes special assistance to medically vulnerable people who are in need of medication that has been destroyed in the fire and assistance to the elderly.

– Once fully cleared and the area treated and formally re-established, plots will be demarcated and proof of residence certificates will be issued to the registered affected residents, subject to the pending national disaster declaration. The City urges the leadership structures to encourage affected residents not to attempt to rebuild on the site until the City gives the go ahead and all necessary processes have been followed. This might take a while and will not happen overnight.

– Electrical infrastructure, a substation as well as toilets, taps and standpipes have been destroyed. This must be reinstated when the site has been cleared. This cannot be done if the residents who are affected start rebuilding prematurely.

– With the declaration of a local disaster now formalised, the kits can begin to be distributed once the funding comes through and after all the necessary site re-establishment has taken place. Unfortunately, this cannot happen overnight as it is a very complex and intricate process. City Law Enforcement is on site to prevent the premature rebuilding of structures as the site is not yet safe for rebuilding.

– The City is adding a storage facility for donated items. Thanks to the generous donations and concern from Capetonians, additional storage is required because of the large volumes of donations that have been received. The City of Cape Town is grateful for the assistance of Gift of the Givers, Living Hope, Respond Church Consortium and Emmanuel TV for its humanitarian assistance.

– An on site Joint Operations Centre was established by the City’s Disaster Risk Management and regular briefings with all the important role-players are taking place to facilitate coordination and management of the disaster.

There is still an appeal to members of the public to please donate essential items such as blankets, baby food, nappies, baby milk and non-perishable food to Living Hope in Masiphumelele.

To donate, please contact Living Hope which is coordinating the relief efforts: 082 465 9067. The City thanks Living Hope, Gift of the Givers, Respond Church Consortium and Emmanuel TV for their assistance.

Picture: Facebook / City of Cape Town

Article written by