By Jack Bloom MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health:
A total of 7518 shacks have burnt down in fires in Gauteng in the last three years, mostly in Emfuleni (Vaal area), Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni.
These figures are revealed by Gauteng Premier David Makhura in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.
The breakdown for shack fires between 2012 and 2014 is as follows:
- Emfuleni – 2316
- Johannesburg – 2246
- Ekurhuleni – 1538
- Tshwane – 982
- West Rand District – 319
- Midvaal – 64
- Lesedi – 53
Shack fires cause a shocking amount of devastation in Gauteng, affecting about 8000 people every year who lose all their possessions.
According to Makhura “short-term relief such as blankets and food are provided”, as well as assistance in replacing identity documents.
The Fireball firefighting device is to be rolled out to all municipalities to fight shack fires, and the Gauteng Provincial Disaster Management Centre (GPDMC) intends to implement the following initiatives:
- Fire hydrants in the formalized informal settlements
- Creation of space between informal dwellings, including firebreaks
- Smoke detectors given to each informal dwelling
I welcome these measures, but I am disappointed that the GPDMC has opted to provide tents rather than housing materials to rebuild shacks, as is done in Cape Town.
Tents are temporary, whereas the prime need is for assistance to rebuild shacks.
The Gauteng Department of Co-operative Government has allocated only R500 000 in this financial year to assist communities hit by shack fires, which is really measly.
I appeal to Premier Makhura to give a higher priority to helping people rebuild their lives after terrible shack fires.