Action is needed on killer shack fires

Fair points are being raised on the scourge, but is there anyone listening and doing something about it?

As bitter cold grips the country this week, the number of shack fires is on the increase.

The cold often sees an upsurge of fires in informal settlements as residents try to warm themselves with fires and gas heaters, both of which can be extremely dangerous.

One life lost is one too many, while thousands are left with nothing and have nowhere to stay as a result of shack fires. This week a person died in Cape Town after fires spread through various informal settlements, while 40 shacks were destroyed in Alexandra, Johannesburg.

Shack dwellers lobby group Abahlali baseMjondolo came out strongly this week, saying not enough is being done to prevent the plight of the poor.

“The problem is there, but there is no political will to solve the core issue behind this, which is access to services and land,” said the group’s deputy chairperson in Gauteng, Luyanda Fitshane. “Politicians don’t want to give us long-term solutions to these problems and that is part of why we still have shack fires today.

“In all honesty, I think that things like shack fires are convenient for political parties.”

Fair points raised, but is there anyone listening and doing something about it?

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