A struggle to assist fire victims in Mangolongolo, Johannesburg

Mangolongolo committee
Pictured above: The local committee members of Mangolongolo are busy assessing the extent of the damage and trying to find out what can be done to assist with the burial of the deceased.

By Max Rambau, CORC

Another fire disaster happened at “Mangolongolo” Informal Settlement next to Denver Hostel on Monday the 20th September, a day after another nearby informal settlement had 87 shacks burnt to ashes.

The fire was started during daytime in one shack. It is alleged that one resident had left a paraffin stove burning in the shack and it must have caused the fire that spread and destroyed 23 shacks.

The residents lost everything because there were not many people to help put out the fires as most had gone to work and only a few, mainly women were present.

Although the fire brigade came there was not much they could do because the fire had spread very quickly due to windy conditions.

The disaster management did not respond and the residents were left without help and with nothing.

On the 25th September (early hours of yesterday) another fire broke out at “Mangolongolo” Informal Settlement.

This time the fire was caused by a man who burnt another man’s shack. Apparently, the two men had had a fight during the day and the culprit had been defeated. He then decided to go and burn his enemy’s shack.

238 shacks were burnt down and 4 people died. The culprit has been arrested. Of the 4 dead people, 3 were Mozambicans and the other was a Zimbabweans.

I met with the local committee who informed me that they were not getting help from anyone. Only the firefighters came to help.

Although the ward councillor came, he told them that he had a problem the residents of “Mangolongolo” because they did not have a working relationship with them and he then left without helping them.

I phoned the ward councillor to find out what he was doing to help the residents but he told me that he had a problem because these people were burning their shacks as if it was fashionable to do so.

I asked him if it had contacted disaster management he indicated that he had not done so because they (disaster management) would have heard from the media about the fire disaster. He agreed that he would contact Disaster Management on Monday and requested me to work with him in getting help for the residents and that we must keep in touch.

I could sense from the ward councillor that he was not keen to help the people of “Mangolongolo” because the majority of them are foreigners.

I would appreciate it if I can be assisted in identifying organisations that can help these people. As I indicated last week, there is a need to establish a fire disaster fund as the fires in informal settlements always leave people with no help.