Residents fear ‘arsonist’ in Jumpas

Residents collect iron sheets to try to rebuild their homes.

Residents of Jumpas informal settlement said they are living in fear after their shacks were allegedly set on fire on March 4, leaving more than 400 people homeless.

According to locals, there was an argument between residents leading to one man being chased out of the settlement.

Residents of Jumpas alleged that the man started two fires, one on Sunday morning and the second on Sunday night.

This has been contradicted by the City of Johannesburg’s (CoJ’s) Emergency Management Services (EMS), which stated that the first fire was caused by an unattended paraffin stove.

Jumpas shacks burnt to the ground.

Ninety-eight shacks were burnt to the ground at about 3am, leaving about 256 people homeless.

This was followed by the second fire on Sunday night, when a further 100 shacks were burnt down.

EMS did not provide a cause for the second fire. No case has been opened with the police and no injuries were reported.

Spokesperson for the EMS Robert Mulaudzi encouraged residents to take precautions when using heating and lighting appliances such as paraffin stoves.

Also read: #YourStory – Passionate about the community

“Do not leave candles unattended to avoid devastating fire incidents like this one,” said Mulaudzi.

Jumpas committee members are concerned about the safety of residents because the man who is alleged to have started the fire has not been found.

“We are uncomfortable currently because we don’t know what is going to happen,” said committee member Bulelwa Somi. “The man who started the fire said if he cannot live in Jumpas, no one will.”

All that is left after about 200 shacks were destroyed in two fires on March 4.

Residents said they are tired of the living conditions in the settlement and of being victims of fires.

“It is difficult to rebuild because sometimes you lose everything you have in the fire and you have to start all over again,” said Phemelo Mhlanga.

“You need to buy building material and sometimes you don’t even have the money.”

Residents said they have pleaded for houses and electricity.

“The major problem in Jumpas is that the shacks are too close to each other,” said Mhlanga. “There is no proper demarcation and restructuring is needed. This makes the fire travel faster and spread quickly.”

Residents said they need to have better ways of preventing fires.

Officials and relief stakeholders have been on site since the fire occurred assisting Jumpas residents.

Also read: Jumpas residents receive solar lights

Disaster management, social development, Shoprite Soup Kitchen, Gauteng Provincial Food Bank and Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation made donations of blankets, clothes and food.

“We would like to thank each and every person who has been here with us from day one helping us to rebuild our lives,” said Somi. “We appreciate it as a community and the committee of Jumpas.”

Busi Vilakazi

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