Homeless, cold and destitute

Destructive fire leaves 10 facing uncertain future

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Huddled in a small, cold bungalow, four Uitenhage women sit and talk about their uncertain future.Where will they be living next week, what will they eat and how will they manage to reconstruct their lives?These are the questions they ask after a devastating fire ripped through eight homes in Mandelaville KwaLanga on Wednesday last week.After losing all their belongings, an emotional Thembela Matsolo, 51, cried, saying they had no-one to turn to for help.“Now these people [from human settlements said] by die einde van die maand ons moet uit gaan daarso [at the end of the month we have to leave].”The bungalows were put up as temporary structures for home owners whose homes were burnt down in 2018.The bungalow occupied by the four fire victims had been handed over by human settlements to an elderly woman who is to move in on May 1.“My boyfriend and I have nothing other than the clothes on our backs,” Matsolo said.“It is wet and cold and it has not been an easy week for us.”Unable to contain her tears, Matsolo said she was beyond devastated and things did not look promising for the group.“We are lucky to have Pastor Raymond who takes us in during the day and gives us a meal,” Matsolo said of the Apostolic Faith Mission’s Raymond Matabiele.While the women were staying in the bungalows, six men were being accommodated by the ward committee in the Xaba community hall.Standing outside in the rain, the men said during the day they had to find alternative shelter because the hall was being used for functions.Rayno Saterdag, who also lost everything in the fire, said he had been wearing the same clothes since last week because the clothes that were donated did not fit him.Saterdag, 37, a tall, thin man, said he had taken a lot of blows in life but had faith that God would see them through.“I just got a casual job last Monday and was working towards getting my two children to come stay with me.“I don’t know how we are going to get through these cold days, but I know God is with us,” Saterdag said.It was unclear how the fire started, but when 10 people who lost their homes came back from work on Wednesday it was too late to save anything.Matabiele said he had been trying to assist when and where he could with contacting disaster management and the ward councillor.“Disaster management arrived the same evening and delivered mattresses and three blankets for each person.“They also delivered five bags of food but unfortunately they have nowhere to cook so we have been cooking for them at our church,” Matabiele said.He planned to meet the ward committee on Wednesday to discuss a way forward.“There is an open area that I have asked the ward committee to consider for these guys to rebuild their shacks ... That is what is important right now.”Municipal spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki said: “Although facts are not available in this matter for now, it is highly unlikely that people at their time of need can be kicked out to fend for themselves.“The mayoral rapid response task team co-ordinator has been asked to follow up to make sure that interventions can reflect compassion.”

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