Fire at Denver Hostel, Johannesburg

No materials in denver

Pictured above: Some residents at Denver Hostel Informal Settlement have already started rebuilding their shacks. However, most residents do not have building material to do so.

By Max Rambau, CORC

On the night of Sunday 19 September, a fire broke out at Denver Hostel Informal Settlement destroying 87 shacks and leaving one person dead.

I interviewed the residents about how this fire started and I was informed that the cause was arson. Apparently, a woman found his boyfriend sleeping with another woman in his shack. The jealous lover then poured petrol on the shack and set it alight. The fire then spread to other shacks in the area.

The 87 were burnt to ashes and people lost everything and unfortunately, an innocent person who was sleeping in his shack was burnt to death.

The residents tried to put out the fires but the wind was blowing on the night, which made the fire to spread fast. The fire extinguishers and paramedics arrived late when the damage had already been done.

The Joburg Disaster Management services team came on the following morning and distributed blankets to the victims.

When I talked with the residents they raised some concerns with me and said that government did not care about them and conditions they were living in. They said that the fact that because they speak IsiZulu, the ANC government thought that they were members of the IFP, which is not true of all of them. They felt that they were being discriminated and that development will not come to their area.

Also, I learned that there are internal politics in the area. The residents themselves still discriminate against each other according to the regions they come from in the rural areas. The dominant group comes from a certain area in KwaZulu-Natal and they tend to help each other first. For example, the dead man does not come from the dominant group and the collections for his burial are not forthcoming. They have had to send for help in the rural area for collection of funds for burial.

By yesterday some residents had already started rebuilding their shacks but some were still struggling because they did not have building material. One company has donated some timber in order for the residents to rebuild their shacks.

The indunas (local leaders) were not available as they had gone home for the long weekend. I am planning to meet them some time next week to discuss with them how we can seek for help from some NGO’s to help, e.g. Gift of the Givers to donate some cloths, etc. Also, we need to contact government departments like the Home Affairs and Social Development for the lost documents (birth certificates, I.D’s and Social Grant Cards).