Statement on the Shack Fires of Masiphumelele

2 November 2022

The South African Communist Party (SACP) in the Brian Bunting District (Cape Metro) in the Western Cape Province is shocked but not surprised by the DA-led City of Cape Town that grossly neglects working-class squatter camps to endure disasters. As the SACP in the District, we stand in solidarity with the community of Masiphumele informal settlement in Fish Hoek which have been ravaged by fire disaster in the early hours of Monday, 31 October 2022.

As a result of this fire, one person died, over 200 shack dwellings were destroyed, over 800 people displaced, and many families rendered homeless. Families lost their properties in the blaze, including children’s school books and material. We extend our sincere condolences to the family that lost their loved one in this tragedy.

This recent fire in Masiphumelele, and the many fires that affected this same community in previous years, demonstrate the DA’s poor track record in governance in general and more particularly on housing delivery in the City of Cape Town. This is the second fire since April 2022. The DA has neither the required political will nor capacity to be entrusted with “securing their future’’ as they so boldly claim in their election manifesto.

The community of Masiphumelele has been consistently subjected to disasters, and the DA has failed dismally to implement long lasting housing solutions for these communities. The City of Cape Town, Western Cape Government and National Government are talking past each other fighting over unnecessary territorial struggles whilst people suffer from preventable disasters.

This fire must serve as a wake-up call for the government to prioritise the release of urban land for housing for poor working-class communities. Masiphumelele has exhausted its available capacity while there is enough land around the community reserved for capitalist priorities including the building of shopping malls. Through various platforms, the SACP has over the years called for the dismantling of the old apartheid spatial planning patterns whose legacy is still stubbornly pursued by the City of Cape Town. The DA, with its historical entanglement with the right-wing FF+, has often resisted these attempts. This was recently demonstrated through their spineless leader, John Steenhuisen, when he flip-flopped on the issue of repurposing golf courses for housing development in the City of Cape Town.

There is clearly no appetite to expedite delivery of housing for the poor hence there is a huge backlog as evidenced by the Western Cape Housing Demand Database (WCHDDB). On the WCHDDB, the Department’s 2021/2022 APP confirms that “a total of 550 889 households in the Western Cape registered their demands for housing by the end of August 2020 and the biggest share of need at 327 435 (59.4%) is based within the City of Cape Town”. The DA's incompetency was confirmed by their very own Human Settlements MEC, Mr. Tertius Simmers, who conceded in his department’s Annual Performance Plans (APP) for 2021/2022 financial year that “since 2007 there has been a decline in the number of subsidized housing opportunities, including houses built and sites serviced”.

For the people of Masiphumelele, the debate of who is responsible for housing is immaterial, they urgently need to be provided with necessary relief and the restoration of their lives through rebuilding their lost homes. As the SACP in the Brian Bunting District, we call on our ANC led National Government, particularly the Human Settlements Department to immediately review and rescind their decision to withdraw funding for emergency starter kits and make them available for Masiphumelele fire victims.

The DA’s political incompetence aside, the SACP, as the vanguard of the working class, calls on patriotic citizens from all walks of life (business, labour, government, civil society, etc.) to open their hearts and assist with any donation or contribution of whatever kind (clothes, food items, building material, etc.) that may help restore hope and dignity of the residents that have lost their belongings to the fire.

Issued by the SACP Brian Bunting District

Monde Nqulwana
District Secretary

Source: South African Communist Party