Cape Town – The City of Cape Town's Disaster Risk Management Department and Fire and Rescue Service have launched an awareness campaign in response to the spike in informal settlement fires. However, ward councillors think that the campaign is a ruse to avoid addressing the underlying problem.
From November 1, 2021, to January 3, city firemen responded to 531 fires in informal settlements, with an additional 48 residential fires, including 22 formal residential fires and 26 informal residential fires last week.
Mayco member for safety and security Alderman JP Smith said he hoped the campaign would not only educate communities in high-risk areas, but improve residents’ awareness and preparedness for fires.
Every fire is devastating, no matter the extent of the damage to property, more so when lives and livelihoods are lost. Some communities are at higher risk and more vulnerable than others.
"We have planned interventions for the next few weeks that will reach the 20 most high-risk informal settlements. Education and awareness raising will be done door-to-door, but our staff will also visit day hospitals, clinics, libraries, and do poster drop-offs at schools, public transport interchanges, and other community hubs.
"We’re doing everything we can to protect vulnerable communities from the devastation caused by fires. I encourage residents to take heed of the safety messages and implement them. It may never be needed, but it is best to be prepared," said Smith.
So far, the Disaster Risk Management Centre, in conjunction with the Fire and Rescue Service, according to the statement issued by the City, has reached approximately 15 000 households in informal settlements in Khayelitsha, Mfuleni, Nyanga, Overcome Heights, Driftsands, Wallacedene, Bloekombos, Kuils River and Gugulethu.
Ward councillor Bongani Ngcombolo, on the other hand, believes that rather than running campaigns, more energy should be invested in housing.
"The campaign is honestly a way of delaying the issue at hand. I oversee an area where there are a lot of informal settlements, and given the issues that these people face, do you really think they would want to hear about campaigns? These people use paraffin stoves or wood fires for cooking; it's inevitable."
"The city should put more focus on the housing projects that keep on being delayed because such campaigns do no good to residents who live in these circumstances," said Ngcombolo.
Going forward, Human Settlements Mayco member Malusi Booi advised residents to keep their contact information up-to-date on the Housing Needs Register in case the city needed to contact them about their application.
"All residents in need of subsidised housing opportunities are encouraged to apply to register on the City’s Housing Needs Register so they may be considered for opportunities when they do become available. This is vital because an objective tool is required to allocate space amid the immense need for housing. Without registering on the city’s Housing Needs Register, it is not possible to be considered for an opportunity," he said.