Fire survivors chase electricity workers

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By Everson Luhanga

Survivors of the Usindiso building fire, who now live in the shanty town of Shalazile camp in Denver, Johannesburg, on Tuesday chased away City of Johannesburg contractors who came to connect electricity to their single-room shacks. 

The 501 survivors of the Usindiso tragedy in August last year where 78 people died in a fire in the Marshalltown building, were moved to small one-room zinc structures in November.

The property where the survivors – about half of whom are South Africans – are now housed, was bought by the Johannesburg Metro Police Department for a City for a vehicle pound for R45 million.

Residents claim that city officials promised them that they would only have to stay at the Shalazile camp temporarily after being housed in other city shelters.

However, other residents said they wanted electricity in their shacks.

Sethokwakhe Zuma, one of the survivors, was moved to the Shalazile camp in November from a hall in Bezuidenhout Valley.

Zuma told Scrolla.Africa when the city officials moved them from the shelter to Denver, they were told they would be given a better place after six months.

“We have been waiting for them to move us as promised for six months. That has not happened. Yet they spent R14,000 to erect each shack, money that would have helped us get better places,” said Zuma.

“Instead of moving us, they are bringing contractors to provide services like electricity. This only means we will be here forever.”

He said the Shalazile camp is not ideal. Their children don’t go to school because there are none nearby, and crime is very high. 

Zuma also raised concerns that the contractors arrived with workers from outside the community. 

“We don’t know the people who were brought to work here. We couldn’t allow that,” he said.

The argument between the residents and the contractors got the attention of Ward 65 councillor Nkosikhona Khanyile, who had a different view of the issue.

He said people in the camp were angry because they wanted to be part of the electrification project.

“We have managed to resolve the problem, and 31 of the residents from the area will be part of the project,” he said.

Asked if there were plans to relocate the people at Shalazile to better accommodation as promised, Khanyile said that the decision would have to be made by the City’s human settlements department. 

“All I know is that this is their home and the government is giving required services like electricity and water to its people,” Khanyile said. 

Minister of Human Settlements Mmamoloko Kubayi announced in March 2023 that an RDP costs R255,000. 

Pictured above: Residents of the Denver settlement. 

Image source: Everson Luhanga


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