WATCH | Shack fire victims face frightening new challenge

DAILY HARDSHIP: Almost 90 people who survived a devastating fire in December 2019 are living in this small hall in Kwazakhele. Zikhone Nelani, left, her daughter Bayolise, 2, and her friend Nosiphelo Manganya try to make the best of a tough situation
DAILY HARDSHIP: Almost 90 people who survived a devastating fire in December 2019 are living in this small hall in Kwazakhele. Zikhone Nelani, left, her daughter Bayolise, 2, and her friend Nosiphelo Manganya try to make the best of a tough situation
Image: WERNER HILLS

Trapped in a small hall in Kwazakhele with 86 other people, all of whom also lost their homes in a fire in December, a Port Elizabeth woman fears they have been forgotten.

Nosiphelo Manganya, 23, shares the dingy room, which is attached to ward 19 councillor Gamalihleli Maqula’s office, with 19 other families who lost everything in the blaze on December 16.

The fire tore through Ndulwini informal settlement in Kwazakhele three and a half months ago, killing a teenage girl.

“I feel like we are the forgotten people of Port Elizabeth,” Manganya said.

“I am scared of being here and I am also scared of getting the virus.” 

When The Herald visited the Kwazakhele Cripple Care Centre, toddlers were seen playing near scattered mattresses on the floor while a mother was warming charred rice with gravy on a two-plate stove in their makeshift kitchen.

Turns are taken to clean and cook inside the hall.

Luggage and bits of furniture are scattered around the hall — the only belongings salvaged from the fire.

WHERE TO FROM HERE: Like many other families, Pamela Nyaniso, 23, and her son Avuzwa, 4, lost everything in the fire
WHERE TO FROM HERE: Like many other families, Pamela Nyaniso, 23, and her son Avuzwa, 4, lost everything in the fire
Image: WERNER HILLS

Maqula said he feared the coronavirus could spread among the families as conditions were cramped.

The councillor said the families’ suffering was nearing an end.

“Last Thursday we had a joint operating committee]meeting and we decided as a municipality that they needed to move to ward 54 because their situation is urgent.

“However, that decision was overturned and we could not take them to ward  54 because there is no sanitation and water.

“If we had moved them there without those things it would be futile, because they would have the same problems that side,” Maqula said.

“The human settlements[department will visit them, their site is being prepared in ward 19 and we will be installing temporary houses so that we can move them into those,” he said.

“We will be giving them sanitisers, soap and gloves in the meantime, but we have organised chemical toilets and water tanks for them once the relocation is finalised,” he added.

Asked why this process had taken so long, Maqula said the problem was a budget for temporary structures.

He said he had exhausted all avenues in trying to help the group.

Trapped in a small hall in Kwazakhele with 86 other people, all of whom also lost their homes in a fire in December, a Port Elizabeth woman fears they have been forgotten.

“I even reported this at national level and officials from the minister’s office for human settlements came to my ward and nothing happened,” he said.

A frustrated Manganya said her life had come to a standstill after the fire and moving to the hall, and she held little hope of it getting back on track.

“We have been living here for over three months now but nothing tangible  seems to be happening.

“I do not even have an ID to look for work so we are dependent on handouts.

“With the virus in Port Elizabeth, we are most likely going to catch it because we live in such a small space.

“To make matters worse we do not have sanitisers, gloves or masks,” she added.

Zikhona Melani, 22, said she hoped  the move would bring positive change to her and her daughter’s life.

“Because everything got burnt in the fire, my daughter does not even have a birth certificate.

“We can’t get grants, we cannot look for jobs nor can we take our children to school or the clinic,” she said.

“Our councillor did apply for new IDs but we are still waiting for them,” she added.

THEIR NIGHTMARE CONTINUES: The 86 people are living in cramped conditions and with very limited access to ablution and other facilities
THEIR NIGHTMARE CONTINUES: The 86 people are living in cramped conditions and with very limited access to ablution and other facilities
Image: WERNER HILLS
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