169 displaced after fire in Mzamomhle

Mzamomhle residents left homeless after their shacks burned down due to a power line explosion. PICTURE: Bheki Radebe.
Zwelethemba Tunywa, 48, is left with only the clothes he is wearing. PICTURE: Bheki Radebe.
Gift of the Givers donated clothes, food, blankets and nappies and mattresses to the fire victims. PICTURE: Bheki Radebe.

“When the news came that my shack was on fire, I was drinking in a tavern, and the alcohol just stuck in my throat and I could not swallow, something that had never happened to me before due to the shock.”

This is Zwelethemba Tunywa, 48, who was left homeless with only the clothes he was wearing. He is one of 169 people who were left homeless after their shacks in Mzamomhle in Gonubie in East London caught fire.

There are 60 burned shacks, including one brick house next to the shacks. One person was burned but was later released from the hospital. Aviwe Sola (24) said he was burned in the back while attempting to remove his cousin’s clothes from the burning shack.

According to the victims, the shacks burned down before 10am on Sunday morning as a result of a power line explosion.

Zwelethemba said that he was unable to enter his home because the fire had already spread.

He said that his hope is now in the people who are assisting them because he is unemployed, he does not have the resources to rebuild his shack, and the funds to make his ID after it burned in the shack. He was complaining about not receiving the R350 from the government.

Since they could not save their belongings inside their shacks, the majority of the victims were only left with the clothes they were wearing.

The matriculants who were supposed to write their end-of-year exams did not do so on Monday because their uniforms and books were destroyed in the fire.

Nompumelelo Maqulumana, 50, the woman whose brick house burned, said they were hesitant to take out her belongings because the fire did not appear to be reaching her house. However, she said that the fire spread quickly due to the wind.

Maqulumana has children whose uniforms have been destroyed. She said that she is looking for assistance because she does not have any money and is reliant on day jobs. Her and her three niblings, who were unable to attend school, including her six-month-old grandchild, are among the victims still housed in the community hall.

Mkhululi Tonga, 52, who is also homeless, said he was in Mooiplaas when the fire started.

“I cannot bear thinking about what happened! When I arrived, everything was on the ground, I could not even see my home, and people were pointing me to where my shack used to be.

“At first, I thought it was a lie when I was called and told to hurry because it was burning, but it was true,” Tonga explained.

Gift of the Givers, a non-governmental and disaster relief organisation, confirmed that the victims of this disaster are eating after donating large quantities of food, clothes, nappies, blankets, and mattresses.

Corene Conradie of Gift of the Givers in the Eastern Cape said that the victims are fed twice a day. Conradie said that they will continue to provide for them until the government does.

Mncedisi Nontsele, a Member of Parliament, said that the municipality is taking precautions to ensure the victims’ safety. He said that they sympathise with the victims because this occurred so close to Christmas.

BCM spokesperson, Samkelo Ngwenya said that they are in talks with government departments in order to assist all victims whose IDs were burned. He said that the victims are still being kept safe in this hall at the moment.

When I’solezwe lesiXhosa arrived, the youth whose shacks burned down were trying to re-erect them.