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David Nkanti residents start again from nothing after shack fire

A shack fire has left about 200 people homeless in the David Nkanti township near Lwandle, Strand. The fire started early Wednesday morning, as residents were heading to work. RA’EESA PATHER was there as they attempted to pick up the pieces of their homes and begin to rebuild.

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David Nkanti is small settlement in Strand. The fire started shortly after 7am. Many residents, who had been headed for work, turned back after seeing the smoke or receiving phone calls from family, only to find their belongings already in ashes.

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Residents pull burnt material from the rubble to rebuild new shacks. They need poles, corrugated iron sheets, and pallets to make new homes. Although they were waiting for the municipality to provide new material, residents started rebuilding quickly, using whatever materials they could salvage for fear they would have no place to sleep on Wednesday night.

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Children dig through the debris for nails and anything else they could find to help their parents rebuild their homes.

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Thomas Semango pushes a burnt cupboard from what remains of his shack. Residents in the informal settlement are impoverished and have little means to replace what was lost.

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Inside Semango’s shack, the remnants of his breakfast sit on what was once his stove. Everyday items like pots, stoves and cupboards will be expensive to replace.

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Residents use spades to dig holes in the sand so they can pitch the poles around which new shacks will be constructed. Some waited, hoping the municipality would arrive soon with new building material.

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Community organisers take down the names of people affected by the fire. They record the possessions that were lost and hand the data over to the municipality, which will then see to the residents’ needs.

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Congestion in the settlement helped spread the fire. With the shacks built so close together, the fire passed easily from one home to the next.

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As the afternoon wore on, a tired man sat down to eat a sparse meal.

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Eighteen-year-old Esihle Villem was at school when one of his peers told him about the fire. He hurried home to help his father clean up the mess and rebuild their home. Villem is determined not to let the fire disrupt his future.

“This will not have any affect on my future, because I’m going to build a new shack and it’s going to be fine,” he said.

DavidNkanti_11People take down the remains of a shack that burned but remained standing. Burnt shacks would be replaced with new ones, and in the meantime, the old material was salvaged in case it was needed to provide shelter for the night.

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Wiseman Makhasi sits on her bed in the middle of the settlement. It is one of the few possessions she managed to save before her shack was razed to the ground. Like many around her, she doesn’t know when she will be able to fully rebuild her home or whether she will be able to replace everything she lost.

“I feel sad and worried. There’s nothing left of my shack,” Makhasi said.

All images: By Ra’eesa Pather.

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