Durban – RIOTS broke out in the Jika Joe informal settlement in Pietermaritzburg yesterday as community members grew frustrated over the delays in the delivery of aid.
Many of them spent the night sleeping outside in the cold after 500 shacks in the settlement burnt down on Wednesday, leaving an estimated 1000 people destitute.
This is believed to be the twelfth fire at the settlement in three years.
Wednesday’s fire gutted the Mshayazafe section.
By midday yesterday, community members were hard at work trying to rebuild, and others had apparently left the area to find shelter with relatives.
Trouble started on Wednesday night as frustration grew and some community members tried to invade the nearby government flats, demanding to be allowed to move into them. Many of the flats are still under construction.
The situation was so explosive that efforts to calculate the number of those in need of help were abandoned, and the people, including the elderly, had to spend the night out in the cold.
It escalated in the morning and police had to be called in after roads near the settlement were damaged.
“The community demanded to be addressed on the issue of the flats, and it seems that someone had promised them that one of the officials from the Msunduzi (Municipality) would come and address them, and when that did not happen, the community rioted,” said DA ward councillor Suraya Reddy.
“I feel for the community; 24 hours after the disaster, aid or disaster relief has not come.
“We could not even provide blankets on Wednesday night.
“Many of the community slept outside in the cold. It is painful. All that I can offer at the moment is meals,” she said.
Community members who had started rebuilding their homes yesterday said they were making do without government help.
“I went to my employer and borrowed money to rebuild so I can have a place to sleep tonight. My employer will deduct that money from my wages over the coming months,” said Lison Banda.
Referring to the fire, he said his girlfriend fled with their 2-year-old son.
Banda said supplies for the spaza shop that they ran from the shack and all their other belongings had perished in the fire.
An elderly woman, Sizakele Ndlovu, said she and her grandchildren were lucky to be alive.
The Msunduzi Municipality did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.