South Africa News

Taiwan fire victims say government has abandoned them

About 500 Taiwan informal settlement fire victims are still waiting for the government to activate disaster relief support after their shacks were destroyed in a fire that tore through the settlement earlier this year.

According to the Cape Metro Human Settlements Forum, the community have been waiting for months for the government to initiate disaster relief measures and began rebuilding their homes.

Spokesperson Kholekile Mwahla said: “We are unhappy with the government’s slow progress in addressing the plight of shack fire victims. The people of Taiwan, in Site C, have been left in limbo.

“For months they have been waiting for the government departments to begin rebuilding their homes, only for the departments to start denying that money was ever allocated to help them, whilst there was R30 million allocated for their relief, the City appears unwilling to help alleviate the plight of the people of Taiwan.

“The City is claiming that the people of Taiwan have since rebuilt their structures, but omitting to say with what material. They are not saying that the structures are being rebuilt using charred material.

This not only poses health risks for the affected but also, a concerted effort to rebuild Taiwan would have presented an opportunity to decant the area, and, in so doing, preventing a repeat of the same disaster,“ said Mhwahla.

“They wanted the national government to intervene and ensure that the affected families were assisted, he said.

The forum also slammed the City for shunning its Masiphumlele leadership, while working for the community to establish a parallel leadership which it said the City preferred.

“Instead of the City working with the legitimate leadership of Masiphumelele, the City opted to elect a parallel structure and sought to obtain an interdict against this leadership. It’s almost election time and that’s the time these funny interventions begin to take place,” said Mwahla.

Approached for comment about the allegations that it withheld money meant to be used to assist the Taiwan community, the City referred the Cape Argus to the province.

Regarding claims that it shunned the original Masiphumelele leadership and replaced it with its own panel, Mayco Member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi said the City had moved mountains to assist all the verified fire victims.

Booi said: “The City always engages in good faith with recognized community and civic leadership structures, such as the broader community leadership as well as the fire-victim leadership.”

Human Settlements MEC Titus Simmers said his department was not involved in assisting fire victims, as it was handled by the City’s Disaster Management Department.

“The funds that were approved were for Masiphumelele and not for Taiwan. The allocated funds were only to assist Masiphumelele that was classified as a Disaster Area.

“The City was supposed to write to the department to request funding assistance, similar to the process followed following the Masiphumelele fires. The municipality is responsible for the activation of emergency assistance, which includes funding application to the Provincial and National Department of Human Settlement,” Simmers said.

-Cape Argus

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