With water levels rising drastically, Margaret Ngobeni only managed to grab two bags full of clothes and birth certificates and escaped with her three children as her Eerste Fabriek informal settlement home in Mamelodi was destroyed.
Sitting at the Mamelodi Baptist Church on Tuesday morning, Ngobeni recounted how she managed to save herself and her children from the floods that destroyed more than 700 shacks on Monday.
“I saw the water rising. I live near the river. I saw that the water is flooding. I packed a bag with clothes and took the children’s certificates. By the time we were ready to make our escape, the water had already entered the house, up to my waist,” she said.
With her three-year-old child on her back, her 16- and 10-year-old children on either side, Ngobeni waded through the raging water, making her way to safety on high ground.
“The children were with me. I had one on my back. One took my handbag, the other had the bigger bag on their head and I also carried a bag on my head.”
Once Ngobeni and her kids reached the train tracks near the informal settlement, she watched in horror as her entire life was washed away.
Her shack, clothes, beds, fridge, food and blankets were swept away in the raging waters. Even the clothes she had bought for her children, meant as Christmas presents, were gone.
Ngobeni said she was scared as she experienced the full might of the floods, but appeared equally terrified at the prospect of what her future holds.
She is among hundreds of women and children who are currently being housed at the church after being displaced by the floods.
“I have no plan. I work piece jobs [odd jobs]. I don’t know how long I will be staying here because I don’t know where else to go.”
Thandeka Hlongwa, who is also staying at the church with her two children, was at work when the flood hit through the informal settlement.
“I was at work and got a call. I left two children at home. I got a call saying there is water going into the house and that I should return,” Hlongwa said.
“When I arrived, I found water all over the shacks. We lost everything; groceries, furniture and clothes, we only have the clothes that we’re wearing right now.”
Hlongwa said she was unable to get to her shack because of the floods but was elated to find out her neighbours had saved her children and taken them to a safe place.
“I am hurt to lose everything that I worked so hard for and losing the only home we had. We have nothing.”
Provincial and Tshwane rescue teams were on the ground at the Eerste Fabriek informal settlement which is situated along the banks of a river that runs through Mamelodi.
News24 previously reported rescue teams had gone into the informal settlement to assist residents who were trapped by the floods. The South African Air Force also dispatched two helicopters which airlifted five people who were stranded in Eerste Fabriek.
Earlier on Tuesday, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma confirmed that at least one person had died, and another was missing as a result of the flooding that hit Tshwane on Monday.
Dlamini-Zuma said the body of the person, who had been swept away by flood waters in Centurion on Monday, had been found on Tuesday morning.
Another person was electrocuted in Soshanguve on Monday, but this incident has not been directly linked to the floods.
Dlamini-Zuma added one person had also been reported missing in Mamelodi.
On Monday, she said the focus was on rescuing people and relocating those who were at risk, but now it had shifted to looking after those who have been displaced.
With more than 500 people displaced in Mamelodi alone, efforts are being made to clothe and feed those who have found shelter in various churches and halls around Mamelodi.
Civil society organisation #NotInMyName was in Mamelodi on Tuesday, running a soup kitchen for those affected by the floods.