Survivors of Marshalltown left to endure crowded shelters


Survivors of Marshalltown left to endure crowded shelters

By Everson Luhanga

Many of the 501 survivors of the devastating Marshalltown fire last month have been left to reside in terrible conditions at shelters across the city.

When the former pass office at 80 Albert Street in Johannesburg caught fire, 77 people inside lost their lives. The search soon began for somewhere to house the victims.

Last Thursday, land belonging to the city was identified in the south of Johannesburg. But the residents of the suburbs of Glenvista, Glenanda, Kibler Park, Alveda and Mayberry Park came out in their numbers to protest against a government plan to put what they called “squatters” in their area.

Addressing angry residents, MMC for Transport Kenny Kunene told the residents: “We have cancelled the decision to relocate the people to the area due to residents being unhappy with the decision.”

He then assured them that the city had identified a different space where they would take the survivors of the tragic fire. However, no location has yet been announced.

Speaking to Scrolla.Africa on Monday, Nigel Branken of the activist group Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia said the Hofland Park Recreation Centre, meant to be a temporary shelter, is now a symbol of despair.

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He said the place is overcrowded, unsanitary, and lacks basic necessities, falling far short of providing the dignified support these victims deserve.

“The government’s declaration of a state of disaster is a critical step, one that must trigger an immediate and comprehensive response,” he said.

Branken said South African citizens who have their situation assessed have been provided with a R250 social relief grant.

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Some of the angry residents who rejected the survivors of the fire said they should go back to the countries where they came from. However, research by Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia confirmed that fewer than half of them were foreign nationals.

It was confirmed on Monday that 264 of them –  just over half – were South African citizens, sharing the building with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers including at least 81 children, who survived. The largest foreign contingent were 113 people from Malawi; 93 were from Tanzania and 19 were from Zimbabwe. Three were from Kenya and three from Mozambique, while five were from Lesotho. One was a Swazi national.

Johannesburg Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda’s spokesperson Mlimandlela Ndamase said the city is in the process of identifying an ideal place to relocate the victims who have been staying at different shelters in the city.

“At the Hofland recreation centre, there are 57 South African citizens, 73 Tanzanians, 35 Malawians, six Mozambicans; three are from Lesotho, one Swazi national and one from Zimbabwe. The Wembley and Impilo shelters accommodated 54 and 17 South Africans respectively,” said Ndamase.

Image above: Victims of the Marshalltown fire incident where 78 people died in September.

Image source: Supplied

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