Rains flood Marshalltown fire victims’ shacks in Denver

Residents say they have been abandoned by City of Joburg

Koena Mashale Journalist
January 11 2023 Temporary shelter for the victims of Marshalltown fire flooded due to heavy rains in Denver , Johannesburg.
January 11 2023 Temporary shelter for the victims of Marshalltown fire flooded due to heavy rains in Denver , Johannesburg.

Marshalltown fire victims who were relocated by the City of Johannesburg to a shanty town in Denver last month had to deal with water flowing into their shacks due to persistent rains. 

Following the downpours this week, yesterday residents were seen sweeping dirty water out of their homes while others were drying carpets. They say this has become their routine since moving to the area in December last year after they were evicted from a hall from Bez Valley. Most of the houses have spaces between the doors and the floor, making them susceptible to water seeping into their lounges. 

Sthembiso Ndebele, 34, said living in the camp had been nothing but uncomfortable, especially with the recent rainfall.

“The water seeps in. When it rains, water also comes in from the cracks in the roof. Our belongings always get wet, and we have to use buckets to get rid of the water or sweep it out,” said Ndebele.

Hailing from Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, the mother of three said one could not sleep when the water was at your feet.

“I have kids and I have to make sure that they are out of the shack when it’s flooded. There’s nowhere to go to because my neighbour also has the same problem. My son, who is disabled, can’t do much on his own, and I have to carry him in the middle of the night out of the leaking shack,” said Ndebele.

Another resident at the shelter, Siphiwe Ngcobo, 38, said there had been no solution from officials nor any basic services added to the area.

“There is no drainage system here, no power and no security. The temporary documents that we obtained after the fire have been destroyed in the flooding, and everything here seems to work against us,” said Ngcobo.

Ngcobo, a mother of two, said she feared for her child in this current state.

“In the morning, we try by all means to dry the water and open doors and windows to dry the place but only for it to rain again. We are stuck having to watch the water come inside the shack. All of our clothes are wet, blankets wet, and we can’t even dry them properly. Our children will get sick, and we don’t even have money to take them to the doctor,” said Ngcobo.

The General Industries Workers Union of SA, a union that is part of the Johannesburg Fire Justice campaign, said the rain was not the only factor to blame for flooding but that the poor infrastructure built by the city was responsible.

“This is just a tragedy upon tragedy for these victims, especially considering they are not suffering from natural disasters but from government neglect. The city has been warned and told to install a drainage system but this has yet to be done. These people have been degraded and are expected to live in shacks worse than those you would find in informal settlements,” said union president, Mametlwe Sebei.

Last year the Johannesburg Fire Victims Support Group took the city to court after it evicted the fire victims from Bez Valley.

According to a court judgement, the city, as the first respondent, committed to providing the victims with improved conditions, including finalising the installation of four standpipes with three taps each and grey water drainage within 60 days.

Additionally, 20 more lavatory facilities would be added, serviced weekly, and a pre-paid electricity supply installed within three months.

The city is expected to report progress to the court within three months.

The city had not responded to questions at the time of going to print. 

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