Category Archives: Nondumiso Mbuyazi

Daily News: ‘I could not watch a baby die’

‘I could not watch a baby die’

Nondumiso Mbuyazi

The piercing cries of a six-month-old baby propelled a young woman into a raging fire at an Overport shack settlement on Monday in a heroic rescue.

When the commotion had died down after the fire was contained and baby Natasha was safely in the arms of her babysitter, the egg yolk poultice on Cocela Mlobeli’s face told the community of how the 21-year-old woman had saved the toddler.

The egg yolk, said Mlobeli, was to conceal the burn marks and to help them heal faster.

Earlier, a man who had tried to enter the shack to save the crying girl was burnt on his arm by the inferno.

The close-knit community in the informal settlement of Jadhu, Overport, erupted into chaos after a fire broke out on Monday gutting, at least 100 shacks and leaving 200 people homeless. The fire, said residents, had started at about 9am.

Brenda Nodade, 25, said she suspected one of the residents had left a paraffin stove on.

Two women at an informal settlement in Jadhu, Overport, risk their lives in a desperate attempt to salvage their belongings as a fire burns its way through the settlement. At least 100 shacks were destroyed and 200 people left homeless by the blaze. Picture: Dawn Rouse

“It smelled like someone was cooking and then there was this big bang. I went out to see what was happening and by that time the shack had already caught on fire, and it was spreading to other shacks,” she said.

Despite residents’ attempts to put out the blaze it soon spread to other shacks.

“The wind was just too strong and we didn’t have much water,” said Nomusa Khawunda, who was babysitting four toddlers, including Natasha.

The babies, she said, were all lying on the bed and she had managed to grab three, leaving Natasha behind.

When she went back to fetch her, the fire had spread to her shack. A neighbour, John Magwaza, tried to run into the shack, but he got burnt on his arm.

He tried to smash open the window, but it had burglar guards. That is when Mlobeli, a second year HR student at Berea Technikon, ran into the shack.

“She was just crying and I thought to myself I can’t just stand here and watch this child die,” Mlobeli said. “That is when I went inside.”

As she grabbed Natasha, covering her with her jacket, Mlobeli said she struggled to breathe as she inhaled the hot smoke.

“I said to myself I would rather die than to allow this innocent child to die like this,” she said, the pain from the burn palpable.

“I only realised later that one side of my face was in pain.”

Natasha’s mother had not returned from work when a Daily News team visited on Monday.

Municipal spokesman, Mandla Nsele, said that a fireman sustained a minor injury while putting out the fire and was admitted to hospital.

He said the municipality, through its Disaster Management Department, had provided 100 blankets and 100 food parcels, as short-term relief.

Area councillor, Bhekisani Ngcobo had identified two temporary shelters where those who had lost their homes had been moved.

The city was still working on organising additional relief, like building material, from NGOs and business.

The extent of the damage, said Nsele, was still being assessed.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC, Nomusa Dube, said the department was working with the municipality to provide aid.

“We are saddened to learn of the fire… we urge our people to learn from this incident and take our warning about habits that lead to fires seriously,” Dube said.

Daily News: Allegations of arson fuel anger among squatters

Kennedy Road Burns – 16 June 2009, Picture by S’bu Zikode.

Allegations of arson fuel anger among squatters

November 17, 2010 Edition 1


A WAR of words has erupted between the city and shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo over remarks by a top housing official that the burning of shacks in eThekwini was being “orchestrated”.

The claim by Nigel Gumede, head of the city’s housing committee, at a recent committee meeting, has left the movement perplexed.

Several Durban informal settlements have gone up in flames this year, claiming the lives of four people and leaving hundreds of people destitute.

Gumede said he wanted informal settlement arsonists to be criminally charged for the offence, saying the same laws needed to apply to people, whether they were rich or poor.

“If a person burns down their house or flat they get charged with arson. The same law needs to apply to people responsible for burning shacks,” he said. “We have a strong suspicion that the burning of shacks is orchestrated.”

What further exacerbated the situation was that the culprits were not apologetic for starting the fires, but instead demanded new houses from the city, said Gumede.

“The shack dwellers don’t do anything about these culprits who are responsible for destroying their shacks and belongings.”

However, Abahlali spokesman Clement Mtshali yesterday dismissed the allegations, saying it was an insult for the city to accuse them of such an “atrocious” act.

“Why would someone purposely burn down their shack? Why would someone give away the small home that they have in hope that the city will provide them with a house? That doesn’t make any sense and these allegations are an insult to the shack dwellers,” he said.

Mtshali said he was “really disappointed” that the city could accuse shack dwellers of such a “heartless” act. “So they mean that we would burn down a shack, killing people in the process, just because we hoping to get a new house. How heartless do they think we are?”

In the most recent incident, two people died, more than 1 000 people were left homeless and 200 dwellings were destroyed when a massive fire ripped through a large informal settlement in Quarry Road last month.

In other incident, firefighters battled for hours last month trying to put out various fires at an informal settlement on Jadoo Place in Springfield.

In August, a fire at the Kennedy Road informal settlement destroyed 500 shacks and left about 2 000 residents without homes. And in July a fire at the same settlement killed two people, gutted about 500 shacks and left more than 200 residents homeless.

Earlier this year, in another Kennedy Road informal settlement fire, 150 shacks were destroyed and 400 people left homeless, while the Cato Crest informal settlement was hit by four fires this year.

Daily News: Doubts over ANC’s housing promises

Doubts over ANC’s housing promises

September 27, 2010 Edition 3


THE shack-dwellers’ movement, Abahlali BaseMjondolo, says it fears that government officials may be promising homes for the homeless to get them to vote for the ANC in next year’s elections.

The movement’s spokeswoman, Nomhle Mkhetho, said yesterday that they had been promised that houses would be built in Reservoir Hills.

“We welcome this promise; however, we do fear that all these promises could just be to try and trick us into voting in the next election and (then) the bulldozers will come to destroy the settlement. We cannot relax until the promises that have been made to us are kept.”

Lennox Mabaso, spokesman for the KZN Department of Co-operative Governance, which is responsible for disaster management in the province, said shack dwellers needed to understand the challenges within the context of historical facts.

He said the shacks were a consequence of years of people’s housing needs being neglected by the apartheid-era government. “However, the government is doing all it can within the available resources to attend to the housing needs, including doing away with informal settlements and providing people with shelter. This will not be an overnight process but it will be a steady progress. The government has already (provided) over 4 million houses.”

Daily News: Informal settlers group celebrate court triumph

Informal settlers group celebrate court triumph

October 15, 2009 Edition 1


Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement, which represents thousands of people who live in informal settlements, will slaughter two cows to celebrate yesterday’s Constitutional Court ruling that a law allowing mass evictions in the province was unconstitutional.

The group approached the Durban High Court earlier this year, challenging the constitutionality of the KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of Re-emergence of Slums Act.

The High Court dismissed the challenge and the organisation appealed to the Constitutional Court.

Yesterday the Constitutional Court granted an order declaring that section 16 of the Act was inconsistent with section 26 of the Constitution, and was thus invalid.

An ecstatic Mnikelo Ndabankulu, Abahlali spokesman, said the more than 20 000 members were thrilled.

“We will slaughter two cows and invite all our members to a celebration,” he said.

The shack dwellers argued that the aim of the Act was slum eradication through mass forced evictions.

It said sections of the Act were inconsistent with the Constitution and national law, which aimed to give people the right to housing and proposed informal settlement upgrades.

“We will only move out of the shacks to decent houses,” said Ndabankulu.

Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke noted that section 16 of the Act would make residents of informal settlements, who were invariably unlawful occupiers, more vulnerable to evictions should an MEC decide to issue a notice.

He concluded that the powers given to the MEC to issue a notice were too broad and irrational because they applied to any unlawful occupiers on any land or in any building, even if it is not a slum.

The purpose of the Act was to eliminate, or prevent the re-emergence of, slums.

Reverend Njongonkulu Ndungane, former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, welcomed the ruling.

“This indicates that what we need now is an engaged citizenry,” he said.