Alexandra shack dwellers rebuild their lives

Athini Sikhunyana and her younger sisters stand on the door frame of their shack which is being rebuilt after it was razed in the Alexandra fire on Thursday.
Athini Sikhunyana and her younger sisters stand on the door frame of their shack which is being rebuilt after it was razed in the Alexandra fire on Thursday.
Image: KABELO MOKOENA

Athini Sikhunyana and her family are facing a daunting task of finding wood and corrugated iron sheets to rebuild their home in Granville informal settlement in Alexandra.

Sikhunyana, 20, was in her three-room shack preparing her siblings to go to the mall when she heard people screaming on Thursday that there was a fire.

Her family is among the 900 people who have been displaced by the blaze that ripped through the settlement last week.

Sikhunyana and her siblings were preparing to go shopping for Christmas clothes. But now the money will be used to buy material to try and rebuild their shack.

"I am heartbroken because my sisters might not get new clothes for Christmas. I was bathing them so we could go buy clothes when the fire started. Everything was destroyed in the fire. My father works piece jobs. The money he saved for the children's clothes will now help rebuild our home," she said.

Sikhunyana's family had already started to rebuild their home yesterday.

"We used the damaged material and my parents are making a plan to get more material. We have been sleeping in the corner where they build because we feel safer when we are in one place," she said.

Residents continued picking the pieces after the fire.
Residents continued picking the pieces after the fire.
Image: KABELO MOKOENA
A woman comforts a child.
A woman comforts a child.
Image: KABELO MOKOENA

Teboho Musapelo, 34, who shared a shack with his brother Mohale Majela, 26, said neighbours managed to remove only two trousers, passports and a blanket from his shack.

The two had also already started rebuilding their shack using the damaged corrugated irons.

"We work piece jobs and we cannot afford to buy new materials. We are hoping to finish rebuilding before the rain starts again. We have not bathed since Friday," he said.

Help continued to pour into Alexandra township for the displaced victims of the fire.

A tent that temporarily housed women and children was erected on Friday and hot meals were still being offered yesterday.

Gift of the Givers spokesperson Emily Thomas said they distributed 450 food parcels and blankets by yesterday afternoon.

"Since Thursday we distributed food parcels and blankets. We have offered hot meals, blanks, mattresses and hygiene items. We will continue to provide hot meals and tomorrow we will help people rebuild. We appeal to those who can donate corrugated iron, clothes and food to come forward," she said.

Nana Radebe of Johannesburg Emergency Management Services said the response was overwhelming.

"Companies like Pick n Pay and organisations [like] Al Madad were involved," she said. Gauteng police said an inquiry into the cause of fire and a murder case have been opened. Residents attacked a man they blamed for the blaze.

The man later died in hospital.

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