Fire-hit Masiphumele residents still wait for solutions after weeks of promises

After weeks of promises, the residents of Masiphumelele are hopeful that Friday will be the day they get to start rebuilding their lives.

It was a grim festive period for thousands of informal settlers who lost everything in a massive fire that ripped through the area a week before Christmas. Thousands are still homeless.

Since then, every week has come with a fresh promise and residents are starting to get restless.

Cynthia Batye sits against a blue concrete wall in what used to be her street. Now it leads to an empty piece of land where her home once stood.

Batye was in the Eastern Cape when the blaze broke out and she rushed back to Masiphumelele – and to the few personal items her boyfriend managed to save from the flames.

“It’s only clothes and the bed. That’s all. Everything’s burnt,” she said.

The woman and six family members shared a home. She’s currently living with a friend who has given her a place to stay as she waits for a temporary home.

Batye admitted she was lucky as there were some who had nowhere to go.

“There are people that gave us some places to sleep. But others sleep here, in this road,” she said.

The other person she’s referring to is a woman who comes to the same spot to sit with other residents as they wait for any news about when their homes will be rebuilt. At night that woman sleeps on a mattress on the spot where her home used to stand, with no shelter to protect her from the chilly night air or rain.

“We are tired of staying here. By next week, I am going to work. I don’t know what is going to happen. We need houses, temporary houses,” she said.

After weeks of promises, the residents of Masiphumelele are hopeful for the day they can begin to start rebuilding their lives. For Batye and her fellow fire victims, what stands out is the daily grind and disappointment.


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Masiphumelele Fire