Baby girl, 2, killed in shack fire, South Africa

15 July 2019 - 3:00pm
News

The following is a press statement by War on Want's partner in South Africa Abahlali baseMjondolo (The Movement of Shack Dwellers), released Tuesday 9 July, 2019. 

War on Want supports Abahlali baseMjondolo's demand to the South African government to provide basic services to all shack settlements. Everyone has the right to a dignified life and access to water, energy and safe housing. 

Baby Khwezi Mlingo Is No More

Last night at about 8pm a 2-year-old baby girl, Khwezi Mlingo was left in the house in the eNkanini land occupation with her two brothers, one is 7 years and the other is 12 years.

The mother of the 3, Mbali Mlingo was still on her way back from work. She had asked the neighbour who is running a creche nearby to check on her kids. The father had left to work for his night shift duties. The self-connected electricity went off and the neighbour helped to light the candle. The candle fell causing the shack fire. The 12-year-old boy and the 7 year boys were burnt trying to help their sister. They sustained minor injuries and were rushed to hospital. They were treated and discharged. However, the 2-year-old baby girl Khwezi could not make it. Khwezi was burnt to ashes.

We wish to express our deepest condolences to the Mlingo family and the community of eNkanini.

Those of us who arrived at the scene are shocked. Many of us who witnessed the incident are still trying to come to terms with trauma. Losing a baby in this way is traumatic. Over the years our movement has had to mourn the deaths of a number of babies including Mhlengi Khumalo who died in a shack fire in the Kennedy Road settlement in 2005, and Jayden Khoza who died after the police fired teargas into the Foreman Road settlement in 2017.

If we had water and electricity the community would have been able to put the fire off. The provision of basic services in the settlement would have saved Khwezi's life. The recognition of our human dignity would have saved the life of Khwezi and many more children whose only crime is to be raised by impoverished families who are forced to live in shacks.

The winter season is always a dangerous season for the shack dwellers and all impoverished communities. Year after year we are left to burn. This is the politic of contempt.

We call on government to provide electricity, water and other basic services to all shack settlement as a matter of urgency while we wait for decent housing. We call on government to recognise our humanity irrespective of our socio-economic status. We also call on all our communities to work together to look after our children together and to ensure that candles and paraffin stoves are never left unattended.

Usually the first major project after land has been successfully won is to build a creche which can be run by the community to keep all the children safe. Every time a land occupation is attacked by the state the building of a creche is delayed and more children are put at risk.

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