The Minister of Human Settlements, Mmamoloko Kubayi is calling for urgent interventions that will mitigate against the devastating losses caused by the recurrence of runaway fires in informal settlements. She further emphasised a need for the sector to be responsive and produce new ways to rapidly deal with disasters.

Yesterday, Minister Kubayi together with MMC for Human Settlements in the City of Cape Town, Malusi Booi conducted in-loco inspections of informal settlements and back-yard dwellings at Dunoon, Masiphumelele, Phola Park and Khayelitsha. Between the last week of December 2022 and the first week of January 2023, four informal settlements experienced fires that unfortunately led to fatalities and homelessness of scores of families. In total, 121 structures were destroyed in Dunoon affecting about 233 people. In Masiphumelele, back-yard dwellings were affected, with three fatalities and 74 families displaced. The most recent fire was in Khayelitsha over the last weekend, it destroyed 81 homes and another fire incident in Phola Park resulted in the destruction of 322 structures.

The site visit was preceded by a briefing meeting where Minister Kubayi received a progress report on relief efforts from a delegation, led by MMC Booi. He commended SASSA for the quick response in providing basic needs. He also expressed gratitude to NGOs such as Gift of The Givers and Living Hope that have extended a helping hand by providing victims with, amongst others - blankets, food, toiletries, and school uniform. There was commitment to continue to engage stakeholders on long term solutions for the seasonal fires, with the aim of reducing and eventually eliminating these kinds of tragedies.

“The sector needs to be agile and swift in response after assessments are done. We should consider the dignity of the elderly, women, and children as they are the most vulnerable. This is a basic human right issue,” said Minister Kubayi.

To be more responsive and take advantage of innovation, the Minister has directed officials to look at the use of fire rated Alternative/Innovative Building Technology (ABT/IBT) to assist with quicker resettling of communities. Additionally, reblocking strategies should be considered as a settlement planning tool that can assist to prevent runaway fires.

The visit comes in the same week that Minister Kubayi signed off directives that will improve government interventions in instances of natural disasters and fires. The Ministerial Directives provide for the direct supply of building materials or vouchers to people residing in informal settlements and backyards, should they find themselves destitute due fire or other catastrophes. The directive provides that relief be provided within 24 hours after the affected site has been cleared.

The Department will continue to look for preventative measures and additional response strategies to combat various situations that render households homeless.

The provinces and metropolitan municipalities are urged to conduct research on the frequency of emergency housing occurrences to tailor-make their responses. These strategies might include stockpiling limited material depending on the frequency of disasters in the respective areas; the use of ABT panels or conventional building material, amongst others.

“Lessons learnt during the various emergency housing incidences that occurred in 2022 provided a lens to examine the current practice and the turnaround time for implementation of responses. This meant we had to diversify emergency housing interventions so that households are provided with needed relief urgently. The Ministerial Directives provide a framework that will serve as tools for intervention whether a disaster is declared or not,” said the Minister. The main issue is to address households that are rendered homeless when disaster strikes.

Moreover, a panel of experts will soon be appointed to review current policies and strategies to develop new tools or sharpen existing ones. There is an urgent need for innovation in disaster prevention, mitigation, or recovery.

The Minister commends and appreciates all those who have joined hands with government in assisting destitute households in their time of need – this reflects a true South African spirit of ‘ubuntu’. She also urged the City of Cape Town to submit their Emergency Housing Grant application, without delay, so that communities are not left destitute and vulnerable.

The Directives and the emergency housing policy can be accessed on (MINISTERIAL DIRECTIVES | EMERGENCY HOUSING POLICY)


For Media Enquiries, contact: Hlengiwe Nhlabathi-Mokota, Spokesperson for Minister Kubayi on 0647548426 or

Press Release Date: 
Wednesday, January 11, 2023