Allegations that the recent devastating blaze on Table Mountain was started by a vagrant, could result in a backlash against the homeless in Cape Town, reports say.
The wildfire broke out on Sunday, April 18, and damaged or destroyed at least 11 structures in the city.
These included two houses in the Rosebank area, six education buildings on the University of Cape Town campus, heritage buildings including the Mostert’s Mill and UCT’s Jaffer Library, and the restaurant at Rhodes Memorial.
Six firefighters sustained injuries in the line of duty and nine members of the public were taken to hospital with breathing challenges after smoke inhalation.
At least 250 firefighters battled the fire, which was also fanned by strong winds.
The South African National Parks (SANParks) on Tuesday estimated that the fire had destroyed 600 hectares of land in the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP).
IOL quoted the executive director of Souper Troopers, operating the Humanity HubKerry Hoffman, as saying the incident was already being used to further drum up support against the homeless and renew calls for people sleeping on the streets and mountains to be removed.
“If the fires were started intentionally, whoever did so must face the full force of the law, but we must not use this to malign an entire group, especially a group of people who are sleeping rough because they have nowhere else to sleep.
“It’s well known that there are roughly four times more homeless people in Cape Town than there are shelter beds and that many homeless people don’t have a safe or welcoming home to return to,” Hoffman was quoted as saying.
Hoffman’s sentiments came after a 35-year-old man accused of starting the fire appeared in court on Tuesday, April 20.
Frederick Mhangazo was arrested on Sunday night, hours after the initial blaze broke out.
A News24 report said Mhangazo lived in a makeshift structure on the slopes of the mountain.
The report quoted a Devil’s Peak resident, Yazeed Evans, who helped catch him, saying he did not believe the suspect they apprehended was linked to the wildfire.
The report quoted SANParks rangers as saying many of the homeless in the area were removed after the fire, and the mountain remained temporarily closed to the public.
Picture: Cape Town etc gallery