Gauteng shack fires an indication of poor human settlements policy

By Mervyn Cirota MPL, DA Gauteng spokesperson for Human Settlements:

The recent shack fires which has caused the displacement of 2500 people in Kya Sands and Cleveland south east of Johannesburg is a clear indication of poor human settlements planning by Gauteng Department of Human Settlements.

The Provincial Government’s inability to implement stringent policies for in-situ upgrades of settlements and planned relocations has resulted in overcrowding in many of our provinces informal settlements.

Illegal electricity connections remain the major cause of fires, and blazes are difficult to control because informal settlements do not have proper access to roads for fire departments nor are there any municipal fire hydrants.

MEC Jacob Mamabolo’s recent visit to affected areas was a knee jerk reaction, and he provided no long-term planning, nor short term assistance such as emergency shack fire kits provided by the City of Cape Town.

The recent fires should serve as a learning curve to the MEC and the department to ensure that all residential areas are equipped with fire hydrants and proper roads to ensure access.

Until such time as people’s living conditions are improved, they remain vulnerable to avoidable risks.