Rebuilding Knysna

On Tuesday morning, Knysna tourist guide Mawande Kondlo returned for the first time to parts of the township worst affected by last week’s devastating fire.

Kondlo, who conducts township tours twice daily, was at his home in Khayalethu the night Knysna turned into an inferno.

Pointing out to an area on the hills between the Knysna CBD area and the township on the hill overlooking the town, Kondlo said: “One thing we noticed about the fire was that it wasn’t high. It was grass high but there was all this smoke so they couldn’t see the fire.”

“People asked if I was packing up my furniture and I refused to move. The fire was coming from Plett’s side and it was coming from George’s side so where do you run?” he said.

“Normally at 8pm, this place is quiet, but that night there was chaos. There was movement and people everywhere.”

Kondlo, who moved to Knysna from Oudsthoorn in 1998, said this was the first time he had seen a fire of this magnitude.

“I know of another man who told me ‘At 12pm I left my home and by 7pm I was homeless,’.”

Knysna Secondary School Grade 9 pupil Khanyisa Solani, 16, said: “We were meant to write exams shortly but we cannot because some of the [other] pupils, their stuff burnt down. We cannot study, this has affected our year.”

Construction worker Seti Skosana, 57, who lost his six bedroom house in White Location, described how he tried to douse the flames in front of his house with a housepipe.

“It was still two houses away, then all of a sudden it was a wave of flames and my house was burning,” he said.

“We never managed to save anything but I’m starting to rebuild.”


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