fire pensioners accommodated

Marisa Stevens

Marisa Stevens

The 17 pensioners left stranded after their Akasia Court block of flats in Vrededorp, Johannesburg, was razed have been allocated secure and permanent accommodation.

The Johannesburg Emergency Services (JES) confirmed that a 72-year-old resident, known only as "Mandela", was burnt to death in the inferno when his flat caught fire and that he did not die from smoke inhalation as earlier thought.

JES spokesman Lorraine Mogobi said the fire broke out at about 7pm on Saturday. Residents are now settling in at different old age villages around the Vrededorp area after they were temporarily housed for three days at the Jan Hofmeyer Recreation Centre.

But Ethel Mthombeni, 66, a former resident at Akasia Court who has been moved to Radio Court, said that she was unhappy, and would have wanted to continue living at Akasia - a familiar environment. She said she now had to share a bathroom with a neighbour.

Civic leader Peter Jacobs said: "The City of Johannesburg has been concentrating on safety in the Vrededorp old age villages to the extent that it has forgotten to discuss implementing changes to improve the living conditions for the pensioners."

Jacobs said he was planning to take the matter up with the council.

Investigations about what could have caused the fire were being conducted by the JES.

"No further information will be disclosed until the case is complete," said Mogobi.

She said those still remaining at Akasia would be relocated within the next three months.