Organisation helps to rebuild house destroyed in fire

Niazaam Alexander and Gary Kannemeyer, from Kilimanjaro Project help rebuild their neighbour’s home, which was gutted in a fire.

A Tafelsig community-based organisation is helping to rebuild a home which was gutted in a fire.

Charmaine Petersen, 60, her five children, aged between 35 and 18, and her grandson, 2, have been sleeping in their fire-ravaged home in Mongoose Street, Tafelsig since March 20.

Her daughter-in-law and her children had to move after her wendy house in the backyard also burned to the ground.

They had been asleep when a fire broke out, destroying everything in its path. The family escaped only with the clothes they were wearing.

Ms Petersen told the Plainsman on Monday May 23 that they sleep in the kitchen, which only has a sink in it.

“Ek bly in my huis want ek het nêrens anders om te gaan nie,” she said.

Ms Petersen said many had made promises to help them but no one had come to their aid.

Aqeelah Masoet, from Kilimanjaro Project, who lives down the road from Ms Petersen’s house, said something had to be done because it was cold and wet and the roof sheeting at holes in them.

“We could not leave them to the elements,” she said.

The group will, in their spare time, help rebuild and secure the walls, put on a roof, plaster and paint the family’s home.

Project spokesman Gary Kannemeyer said they had already put some plastic sheeting over the roof.

“There isn’t even food in this house,” he said.

The group host fundraising events and dig into their pockets to help those in need with food and or their services to help rebuild their neighbours’ lives.

Ms Petersen who received her deed of sale from the City of Cape Town in 2020 said it meant nothing to her.

“No one from the council came to check if we are alright,” she said.

Tafelsig ward councillor Washielah Harris said as soon as she is a available, she visits victims.

She said her role is to hold officials accountable by means of my oversight.

“I also post on my Facebook to request assistance.

“I give them the relevant information for assistance for example shelter information, the victim support room at SAPS for trauma counselling. I also request help from the non-profit organisations in Ward 82, if they are by the means to assist,” she said.

In 2020 the City’s safety and security portfolio committee had a campaign installing fire detectors in Ward 82.

She said sadly the affected structures were had been erected without City approval.

“This is a huge concern and very dangerous as there is too many structures on a property without an emergency and rescue plan,” she said.

Mitchell’s Plain Sub-council chairman Solomon Philander said no one can preempt a fire and that home owners should have insurance to cover their homes in case of fire or other damage.

“There is no budget to rebuild someone’s house, especially if it is a private property,” he said.

The City’s Fire and Rescue Services would respond to the blaze and activate Disaster Management, he added.

“The ward councillor can also make the call to Disaster Management. When the fire happens, we may not be able to make it out there immediately but we will try to get to the incident and help our residents access services,” Mr Philander said.

Esther Lewis, head of communications for the Western Cape Department of Social Development (DSD), said they provide psychosocial support to victims, conduct assessments and referrals to Sassa, who administers the social relief of distress benefits.

The benefit is to support qualifying families’ basic needs for up to three months, during a crisis of a temporary nature.

It may be in the form of money, food parcels or food vouchers.

The amount paid, and the period varies, based on individual assessments. The money is meant to assist with their basic needs.

To qualify, applicants, or their household must not be recipients of any other grants or assistance such as food vouchers or food parcels.

When there are disasters, such as fires, department officials generally are on site to assist.

During the 2020/21 financial year, the department assessed and referred 881 households to Sassa for the distress benefit.

The department responded to 21 incidents between January and March in the Metro South region, which includes Mitchell’s Plain, Wynberg, Athlone, Grassy Park, Philippi, Hout Bay and Fish Hoek, she said.

Ms Lewis said applications for the assistance can be made at DSD office.