Shack fire mob rage

Date: 01 Mar 2007
An angry mob turned on a suspected looter after a shack fire ravaged 64 homes in Marlboro, Alexandra township yesterday. While saddened residents were trying to salvage what was left in the ruins, they spotted a man trying to make off with clothing and possessions left on the pavement. Thirty men and women started beating and kicking the suspect in sight of the Press. After 10 minutes of agony the man was crying, pleading and begging them to stop. The man was eventually rescued from the mob and taken by two men to an ambulance. He had serious head injuries. At least 160 people were left homeless by the fire, which started at around 12.30pm. Johannesburg Emergency Services spokesman Malcolm Midgley said it was unclear how the fire started. Metro police patrolling the area called the fire station when they saw the fire. “We suspect the fire could have started at a panel-beating shop which was operating behind the shacks,” Midgley said. But already fingers are pointing in the township. An angry resident Nkhensani Shivambu, 20, said she knew who had started the fire. “It’s a Venda-speaking girl. She was the one who left a candle lit in her shack. The police had better come and fetch her,” she shouted to the crowd. Francina Mosesi, 23, stood weeping loudly at the side of the road. “I lost everything, all my clothing and R1 500 that I had left in the house. “I got a phone call at work that my shack was on fire, and now I have nothing left. I don’t know what to do,” she said. Dinah Matjila, 43, told how shocked she was when she got a call from a fiend to say her shack had been gutted. “I lost R2 500 in my room, and now I don’t know where I am going to sleep tonight with my two children.” No one was injured in the blaze, but firefighters could not stop the fire from spreading rapidly from shack to shack. Midgely said the city’s disaster management teams would be assessing the damage, and an emergency relief center would provide temporary food and shelter to the homeless. By Durelle Kariem The Citizen 01/03/07