By Shakirah Thebus
A Manenberg family of seven have been forced to live in a single room container after their council flat was left gutted in a blaze seven months ago. The container was given to them by the City of Cape Town as a form of alternative accommodation until repairs were made. It is situated close to the gutted flat and houses all six members of the family, with one member having had to vacate due to the lack of space for her and her new-born baby.
Martha Lindis, who lives in the container had to give up her job after the fire occurred so that she could take care of the children and when people came to inspect the flat, someone needed to be home. She said it is very uncomfortable in the narrow container where there is little to no room to move around.
The burnt flat is still accessed by the family for the collection of water and for the use of the bathroom. It remains untouched by city officials to date and contains ruins too large for the family to clean up themselves. The flat remains severely flooded, and the family must place planks strategically on the floor in order to make their way to the kitchen for water or to use the bathroom.
Jasmine Harris, a community worker from Mitchell’s Plain has been trying to assist the family since the incident. She has slammed the City for allowed the family to live in “inhumane” conditions.
“The City must take responsibility and move these people to a better house where they can make use of a toilet and have water,” explained Harris.
The City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi said they are aware of the plight of the family and that the matter is being treated as an emergency. However, there are several flats which have faced a similar fate, and this has resulted in the backlog in repairs.
“We are trying to expedite the process in the interim, not to follow the normal process but this will be treated as an emergency,” he said.
“We don’t want to have a small solution; we want a complete solution.”
“Because these buildings are insured, what we normally do is report it to the insurance company. Once we get feedback from the company than we issue out our consultants, which is, in this case are quantity surveyors, who will populate a bill of quantity and from there we will request proposals.”
Aubrey Reagan, a pensioner who lives adjacent to another flat which burnt down over a year ago had to make numerous repairs himself, due to the damages caused by the fire next door which moved over to his home.
“All my windows are smashed. I put in new windows. I lost my TV too. I had to replace it. That gutter hanging there, bangs the whole night. It smashes windows,” he pointed out.
“It costs me a lot of money to paint and I stopped because I haven’t got anymore money. I am a pensioner.”
Upon visiting the local housing district, Lindis was told that the internal staff at the housing offices did not have the expertise to do assessments of the burnt flat and that an external service provider had to be contacted to provide quotations for repairs and damage costs. The insurance company would then need to pay out the stipulated amount. There were approximately 80 other flats with outstanding repairs which needed attention from as far back as last year.
For now, Lindis and her family are desperate for help and has appealed to the public for assistance.
Anyone willing to assist can contact Martha Lindis on 063 112 9114 .