In the early hours of the morning on 1 October 2017, four shacks burnt down in the Slovo Park Informal Settlement in Nancefield, Johannesburg. The accident left a number of people severely injured and a 21-year-old man dead. Survivors of the fire lost their homes and all their belongings, including passport and identification documentations.
The exact cause of the fire is unknown. The Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF) suspect the accident was related to either the use of candles, a paraffin stove or the self-connections of electricity from shacks to factories in the neighbouring Nancefield industrial area.
This is not the first fire-related accident in Slovo Park. From 2010-2015 six adults between the age of 40-60 years old were electrocuted to death. In 2017, one adult and a 4-year-old child were electrocuted to death, in addition to four children under the age of 10 injured by the electric wires exposed throughout the settlement. Without state-provided electricity in the settlement, residents have little choice but to resort to self-connections.
The SPCDF have engaged government at all levels around the provision of electricity and other services for over two decades culminating in a judgement where the Johannesburg High Court ordered the City to apply to the Gauteng Province for a grant to upgrade Slovo Park in terms of the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme.
Since the court order, the SPCDF has continued engaging the City’s housing department and City Power. In the State of the City Address delivered in May 2017, Mayor Mashaba stated that Slovo Park is included in the City’s budget for the 2017/18 financial year to “pave the way for electricity, water and sewerage connections”.
This was confirmed by the allocation of R50 million for the electrification of Slovo Park in the City’s budget. In August 2017, City Power appointed consultants to electrify Slovo Park and assured residents that electricity would be installed by September 2017. To date, no progress has been made on implementation.
Mohau Melani, Chairperson of the SPCDF, expressed his disappointment with City Power. “We expected to have electricity in Slovo Park by September 2017, but no implementation has happened. City Power continues to make excuses and empty promises, irrespective of the court order to upgrade Slovo Park. Instead of celebrating the arrival of electricity in Slovo Park this month, we mourn the loss of a young person that was burnt to death beyond recognition”.
Issued by SERI