A Shack Fire in the Foreman Road shack settlement in Clare Estate, Durban has Claimed Two Lives

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement

A Shack Fire in the Foreman Road shack settlement in Clare Estate, Durban has Claimed Two Lives

Yesterday we had a very successful march, together with our Congolese comrades, against the politic of death. Early this morning two residents of the Foreman Road shack settlement lost their lives in a huge fire. We are the people that can be freely murdered without consequence. We are also the people that are left to live like pigs in the mud and to die in shack fires.

For almost ten years we have been struggling to force the state to take shack fires seriously. We have won many victories over the years but we remain the people that are left to burn. Every time there is a fire the politicians and the police rush to blame us for the fire. They never blame the conditions in which we are forced to live. They never meet with us to work out a way to improve these conditions. We will not rest until we have forced this society to recognise and respect our humanity.

This morning at about 12:30am a fire started in the home of a family in the Foreman Road shack settlement. It is believed to have been caused by a paraffin stove which exploded. The Foreman Road settlement is one of the oldest settlements that has been denied their right to housing by eThekwini municipality. We have won the battle against eviction in this settlement but we have not won the right to decent housing in this settlement. There have been a number of fires in this settlement. It is on a steep hill and when it rains everything is mud. This is how we live, in mud and fire. This is how we have to grow our children.

The settlement falls under ward 25. When the fire started the community was asked by Disaster Management Officials to call on Bhekisani Ngcobo the local councillor. The community replied by saying that they cannot waste their time calling a man of no help like Ngcobo and they handed the number to these officials so they could call him themselves. Ngcobo did as usual by not answering his phone and never visited the settlement till now.

About 33 shacks were burnt down and a couples were burnt into ashes. Some parts of their bodies are still lying unattended as the police could not pick up all their remains while it was dark. The two people that died were Zanele Gavu and Mbongiseni Bhetsile.

We express our condolences to their families. We believe that provision of decent housing, electricity and water and sanitation could have saved these lives. We call upon the Department of Human Settlements to provide all settlements with electricity and other fire prevention measures, as well as drainage, paths and toilets, while permanent homes are constructed in partnership with communities.

Once again we serve notice that we will never accept to be the people whose lives count for nothing. We are well aware of the price that will be paid for this commitment. Some of us will die so that others can live like human beings.


George Bonono on 071 7937645

Mr Ndwandwe on 073 1959845