After another fire rips through ‘tortured’ Masiphumelele, community members weigh in on struggles and solutions

Fire safety workshops, proper housing and more power boxes. These are some of the suggestions residents of Masiphumelele in the Cape Peninsula have for reducing fire risks. This was after the second fire in a month tore through the area on Monday, 21 November.
For the second time in a month, Masiphumelele residents are struggling to pick up the pieces in the wake of a fire. On Wednesday — two days after the latest blaze — victims were attempting to rebuild with what little remained of their homes.
The fire, which broke out in Masiphumelele’s Z-section, affected 1,014 people: 295 men, 379 women, 289 children and 51 infants.
“It is very devastating, this fire, because people were traumatised with [the previous fire]. And now. comes another fire, so everyone is asking, what is going on? Why is Masiphumelele being tortured like this?” said Mkhululi Mfiki, a community leader in Z-section.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Fire rages in Masiphumelele – the second blaze in a month”
The previous fire broke out on 31 October and destroyed 309 structures and displaced 610 people.
Vatiswa Zwana, a resident of Z-section, told Maverick Citizen she was forced to flee her home without her possessions when the fire broke out. She is now staying at a friend’s residence.
“You need [building] material to start with. We’ve got nothing. There’s no point in me asking for shoes and clothes — where am I going to live?” she said.
The nonprofit organisation Living Hope was at Masiphumelele on Wednesday, finalising the lists of fire victims alongside community leaders. The organisation is assisting with the distribution of food and aid through its network of soup kitchens in the area.
“With the kitchens, we try to set up a schedule of who feeds when and get everyone involved with the different stakeholders, because there’s other organisations like Gift of the Givers [assisting],” explained Linda Jaca-Njovane, Living Hope’s community liaison for Masiphumelele.
Gift of the Givers arrived in mid-afternoon with food for affected residents.
Residents of the community have provided support to fire victims by accommodating them in their homes and assisting with rebuilding.
“Everybody you see carrying a hammer and a spade here trying to help is [a member of the] community,” said Zwana as she stood among the burnt-out shacks.
Recurring problems
While Masiphumelele has been plagued by fires over the years, many of the risk factors remain the same. Mfiki said there was a dire need for the City of ...