“Living after the fire, it feels like hell” – displaced Imizamo Yethu residents speak

Imizamo Yethu, an informal settlement on the edge of affluent Hout Bay, was devastated by fire at the weekend. According to the City of Cape Town, the fire destroyed 4 500 structures and affected 15 000 people. Four people are reported to have died in the fire. The City says it’s begun redesigning parts of the settlement but this will take time to complete. The Daily Vox spoke to residents of Imizamo Yethu who were displaced by the fire.

Sekiwe Mahlati, cashier
I woke up at 11:30pm. We went to see where the fire was, [then went back to sleep] and we set our alarm to 3am to check. We watched the fire, the fire wasn’t coming in our direction. We went to help the neighbours further away. But it quickly turned to us. Some of the stuff we saved [but] when we turned around people had stolen our stuff. None of our belongings were saved.

I can’t go to work, my baby’s crèche burnt down. We have nothing, how do I go to work if I can’t even shower or feed the baby?

No one is asking us what we need; we get told what we need. The people from Imizamo Yethu who weren’t affected are controlling what we do. Helen Zille sent someone to speak to us about what we need. They didn’t speak to the victims; people who live in houses and whose children are safe are deciding for us. We don’t even have a say in how we rebuild. The city should have chosen us [those who were affected] to tell them what we need. But other people are telling them.

I just want to be home with my family.

Athiswa Tyobeka, 25, unemployed
We were staying in the green [shipping] containers, and we were sleeping there. Yesterday we were told we had to find somewhere else to stay, because they needed to store the food safely. They made us feel like the donations were more important than us. We were told to come here, that there were showers and food. But there is no hot water.

The city is taking too long to rebuild and supply materials. My mom didn’t come down from the mountain, because she said what’s the point, she has to stay to protect her land and start rebuilding herself. We have no hopes that the city is going to do anything for us. They never have and never will.

Living after the fire, it feels like hell. We were given blankets and slept on the floor, no sponges or mattresses were provided. When my mother rebuilds, I will have somewhere to stay but my friends here? We are tired of shacks and want real homes. Every time we have shacks, the fires come and the same things happen.

Nosipho Mene, 34, childcare worker
When the fire was happening we thought people were helping us save our things. But they were stealing our things. So the whole time we were thinking we can save something, but it was a lie.

It’s 6pm, we have had nothing to eat since morning. We only had bread with juice. We reported that we’re hungry, and we want something to sleep on. They said we must wait until tomorrow. The last time we had something warm coffee or tea was before the fire. We’re cold and hungry and it isn’t safe. We’re sleeping here because we have nowhere else to go.

We’re spoken to badly, like we’re not people. Moving us from the green containers to Zikolobom (another section of the settlement) to the tent. We have a newborn baby here, sleeping on the floor. They don’t care about our children. Some of the people here haven’t lost their things, and have registered as victims. So the real victims don’t get what they need.

  1. Laura says

    Hout Bay is not on the ‘edge’ of Hout Bay… It is a PART of Hout Bay… In fact it is right in the middle

  2. Sam says

    Such ingratitude and these are the very same people who mug us and do home invasions. Go back to the Eastern Cape. We dont want you here.

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