Sowetan article on the Kennedy Road Fire

Everytime that there is a shack fire the politicians rush to blame the victims of their criminal neglect by claiming that the fire was caused by an illegal electricity connection. There is no evidence at all to suiggest that thisfire was caused by an illegal electricity connection. Most fires are caused by candles and on this occassion the police and the fire department have ascribed the fire to both an knocked overcandle and an upturned paraffin stove. Illegal electricity connections, when done well, stop fires and save lives. It is the lack of electricity that causes fires.

This article also fails to understand that for many people where they are housed is as important as the quality of the structure in which they are housed – hence the slogan that rejects ‘reruralisation’ and demands the ‘right to the city’. It is also not true, as Dube claims here, that most people do not want to move because they want to be near the dump. The vast majority of Kennedy Road residents do not earn an income from the dump and do not want to be moved to human dumping grounds on the rural periphery of the city because they need to be near work, schools etc.

300 shacks razed by illegal electricity
06 July 2010
Corrinne Louw

DEADLY illegal electricity connections continue unabated in the Kennedy Road Informal Settlement near Durban despite being the suspected cause of a fire that razed 300 shacks on Sunday.

Three people were killed in the blaze that also displaced more than 1000 people. By yesterday morning, residents who spent the night in the open began rebuilding their shacks.

Resident Sipho Mkhize told Sowetan that he had no choice but “to do an illegal connection”.

“We do not get electricity, so we have to do it ourselves. We know it is dangerous but we know how to do it safely. I used to work for the electricity department so I know how to make it safe.

“Me and a lot of other people pay our neighbour, who has a legal connection, for our electricity,” he said.

“Once my shack is up again I’m going to connect my electricity illegally again.”

The shack-dwellers movement Abahlali Basemjondolo is furious.

“If people were given land, houses and electricity, there would be no fires and no deaths,” said spokes- person Mnikelo Ndabankulu.

“The only reason there are fires is because of the failure of the municipality to provide services.”

But KwaZulu-Natal local government MEC Nomusa Dube, who visited the shack settlement yesterday, said the residents refused formal houses offered to them in Riverdene, Newlands East and Mount Moriah.

“We asked them to move and many refused,” Dube said.

“We sympathise with them but they don’t want to move because the (present) settlement is next to the dump site which is a source of income for them.”