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City erects new shacks, moves more fire victims

Commission to meet education officials

Koena Mashale Journalist
Displaced people wait for housing.
Displaced people wait for housing.

The shacks that the city of Joburg has built for the Marshalltown fire victims are also accommodating families whose homes were destroyed during the Booysens informal settlement inferno over two years ago. 

The shacks in Denver were erected recently to accommodate about 30 people from the Marshalltown fire who were previously placed at Hofland Park Recreation Centre in Bez Valley. They were hastily relocated on Tuesday.

When Sowetan visited the new settlement on Thursday, more shacks were being erected while others were empty. However, by Friday the city had moved new residents who were victims of the Booysens fire in January 2021.

Officials from the South African Human Rights Commission visited the area, which the city terms as the temporary relocation area on Friday. 

Zamantungwa Mbeki, the commission’s legal officer, said: “We arrived in the morning and returned later in the afternoon on Friday and we observed people being relocated from various emergency houses provided by the city. It’s not just residents from Usindiso building [Marshalltown] but also another group affected by a fire in Booysens about three years ago. They previously lived in a hall and have now been relocated to the site in Denver, and the commission understands that more people will be moving in.”

The shacks have no electricity and residents rely on a single communal tap and several mobile toilets. There is no security and the doors don’t lock.

She said the people they interviewed had mixed opinions.

“Those coming from the Booysen fire felt relief, anticipating a sense of ownership and privacy after living in a hall for three years. However, residents from Usindiso expressed uncertainty, citing issues with the [short] notification period and the lack of clarity on their new location. Some were not given sufficient time to collect their belongings for the latest move, so it’s a bit of a Catch-22 situation,” said Mbeki. 

She said the commission was mostly worried about the children affected by the relocation as they could not easily access schools.

“We want to engage with the district education so that they can come and make an assessment of the children so that they are not left behind when the new year begins,” said Mbeki. 

She said the assessment they had made on the site, they noticed that certain provisions were made and others weren’t. 

Mbeki said the commission cannot fully assess whether the city’s decision to create the temporary relocation area is adequate or the right step as temporary settlements were not equivalent to solving the problem. 

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