Their children will not get clothes for Christmas this year, and they won’t have school uniforms for next year.
Families from Alexandra’s Greenville informal settlement lost this and more after their homes were destroyed by fire at about lunchtime on Thursday.
Asanda Zondo gazed in despair at the remnants of her home on Friday morning. She’s just one of at least 400 residents whose 150 shacks were destroyed in the blaze.
With her one-year-old baby on her back, the mother of two told City Press that the clothes they were wearing were all they had left.
“I saw the fire coming towards my house. I could not save everything. I took what I could, including my children, but I couldn’t get their clothes – including those that I bought for them for Christmas. My ID and their birth certificates were also destroyed. I lost everything,” she said, adding that residents tried to fight the fire, but to no avail.
The fire also destroyed the food she’d bought for her children.
“We need Purity, yogurt and nappies. We also need clothes,” she said.
Lwandiso Dlamini said the clothes he bought for his daughter, nephews and nieces for Christmas were left behind in his one-bedroom shack, which was consumed by the fire.
He doesn’t know whether he will be able go home to Umzimkhulu, KwaZulu-Natal, over the festive season.
“My worry is that my family is going to think that I’m lying, and that I misused the money and now I cannot get home. I don’t know how I am going to handle this, but, as a man, I must make a plan. At least I’m still alive,” he said.
Zusakhe Nogwaba-Xaxaka said her two-bedroom shack was burnt down along with her furniture, plasma TV, cupboards, TV stand, fridge and music system.
She returned to the scene after receiving treatment at a local clinic for smoke inhalation, which she sustained while trying to retrieve some of her daughter’s Christmas clothes.
“Everything that I’ve worked hard for is gone. We really need houses,” she said.
Yesterday, families were salvaging what they could of their belongings, while others tried to rebuild their shacks with fire-damaged materials. There was a queue for soup provided by the Gift of the Givers NGO in a tent nearby.
Some residents said they believed a man from outside the community started the fire in revenge after he fought with a local. But others quickly pointed out that it was not known who started the blaze, or why.
Gauteng police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo said a suspected arsonist died in hospital after residents assaulted him on Thursday. A case of murder was being investigated, as was whether the man started the fire.
No arrests had been made by the time of going to print.
Angry Alexandra residents protested near a tent where Gauteng Premier David Makhura spoke about the urgent interventions that would be made by the provincial government and the City of Joburg.
One of the protesters was Duma Kulashe, who said they were there to vent their frustrations over the lack of RDP houses.
“These people here invaded this land; that is why there are shacks here. This should be where our houses are built. We want to meet with the premier to discuss our concerns,” Kulashe said.
Makhura told the Greenville families that their homes would be rebuilt immediately, and that officials would provide support for those who lost their IDs, birth certificates and children’s school uniforms.
“We don’t want you to still be where you are by Christmas. We must rebuild as soon as possible. We must work together,” he said.