Pick­ing up the pieces

GRANVILLE RES­I­DENTS RE­FLECT ON EF­FECTS OF DEV­AS­TAT­ING FIRE One man lost R17 000 he stashed in mat­tress for a Christ­mas hol­i­day.

The Citizen (KZN) - - NEWS - Brian Sokutu bri­[email protected]­ti­zen.co.za

Most of the res­i­dents in the Granville in­for­mal set­tle­ment didn’t have much to start with, and for many even that has gone up in flames.

Scenes of hope­less­ness, de­spair and des­per­a­tion yes­ter­day marked the af­ter­math of Thurs­day’s in­ferno that left over 600 houses at Alexan­dra’s densely pop­u­lated Granville in­for­mal set­tle­ment gut­ted – with about 2 000 fam­i­lies dis­placed.

Ef­forts by con­struc­tion worker Mandla Phakathi to save his hard-earned money for a hol­i­day in KwaZulu-Natal for Christ­mas, proved costly, when he lost ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing R17 000 sav­ings he had stashed in the mat­tress.

Phakathi be­moaned his saving ef­fort, say­ing: “Had I kept the money in the bank, I would be able to visit KwaZulu-Natal to be with my fam­ily this Christ­mas. Now I have noth­ing.”

Cor­ru­gated iron and some burnt be­long­ings were strewn along­side busy Lon­don Road yes­ter­day and amid the sound of ham­mers and res­i­dents sal­vaging what­ever was left of their zinc roof struc­tures, to re­build the homes that were de­stroyed by the fire.

Ntombox­olo Mteli looked on. Her one-year-old baby, Ol­wam, was strapped to her back, but there was noth­ing else left.

All her be­long­ings – clothes, a bed, cup­boards, a fridge, a tele­vi­sion set and food – went up in flames when the strong fire en­gulfed the en­tire set­tle­ment – ren­der­ing her and her other two chil­dren Amy­oli, 7, and Ax­olo, 10, home­less.

Stand­ing on a site of what was once her house, Mteli re­lated her ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It was around 3pm and I was in­side the house with my chil­dren. We heard peo­ple shout­ing and saw how fast the fire was spread­ing to­wards our home, we had no chance to take out any­thing ex­cept to save our­selves by get­ting out with only the clothes on our backs,” said Mteli.

Her iden­tity doc­u­ment was all she had in her pos­ses­sion.

Mteli’s story is sim­i­lar to many in her neigh­bour­hood where many poorly-built houses re­sulted in brick walls col­laps­ing to the ground due to heat in­ten­sity.

De­spite the dust-filled chaos of her sur­round­ings, Man­disa Mgan­dala was busy breast feed­ing her one-year-old baby Anami.

“I was not here when the fire broke out but at work,” said the mother of five, who re­ceived a call at 2.30pm from neigh­bours.

“I have asked friends to as­sist in ac­com­mo­dat­ing my chil­dren. I am only left with the clothes I have on me, hav­ing lost my iden­tity doc­u­ment and aca­demic cer­tifi­cates. The new clothes I bought for the chil­dren to wear at Christ­mas are gone,” said Mgan­dala.

Un­em­ployed Jus­tice Ma­homane had “gone to look for work” when his wife phoned him to say their house was ablaze.

“As you can see, I am try­ing to re­build the house be­cause we have nowhere else to go. When you are not work­ing, things are tough,” Ma­homane said.

Po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing a case of mur­der fol­low­ing the death of a man al­legedly as­saulted by res­i­dents who ac­cused him of start­ing the fire. –

Pic­tures: Re­filwe Modise

MOP­PING UP. Alex res­i­dents be­gin re­pairs and clean up work yes­ter­day fol­low­ing a fire that ripped through the Granville in­for­mal set­tle­ment on Thurs­day.

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