Masi Fire

I didn’t sleep well on Saturday night and got out of bed at 4am. Immediately I smelt smoke. It is fire season in Cape Town and as there was a strong South Easter, I phoned our local fire department. “Big fire in Masiphumelele,” I was told. I’ve photographed a lot of fires around Cape Town so grabbed my camera and headed to the township.

I was a bit apprehensive – there has been a lot of unrest in Masi recently and Facebook was already mentioning hostilities towards some firefighters. The orange glow could be seen below Fish Eagle Park, so I parked my car there and proceeded on foot. I asked a local woman if it was safe and she said I should be careful. “The people are angry.” Then she pointed out two fire engines slowly moving towards the fire zone and said I should follow them.


The scenes that unfolded for the next 2 hours were some of the most tragic I have ever witnessed. 4 000 people displaced. The poorest of the poor, most with very few possessions – even those few belongings now robbed from them by the flames. Destitution redefined. As the dawn sun broke over Sun Valley, the path of the fire’s destruction could be seen. I have been in a war zone and this was worse.

What astounded me most though was the attitude of the victims of the fire. I never once felt threatened. I tried to be positive and smiled at many of the residents and invariably got a smile back. There were even kids playing and laughing. One guy asked me, not angrily, but pleadingly – “How must I have hope?” Another young woman told me she was due to report for work in an hour, but couldnt get there and would not be paid. “What must I do?” she said. Many people told me they needed clothes and soup.


One of the most touching parts for me was when a piece of burnt paper fluttered past my foot. I grabbed it and it turned out to be the burnt page of a dictionary – probably belonging to a school child. The first word on the page that grabbed my eye was “poverty”. And here it was in front of me – redefined.


The giving season is upon us and I call on everyone who is a little more fortunate than our fellow citizens in Masi to take 2 minutes of your time and make a small donation to the leading local charity in the area, “Living Hope“, who is assisting the fire victims. You can make an EFT to their bank account here:

Account Holder: Living Hope
Account Number: 62061847748
Bank: First National Bank
Branch code: 202309
Branch : Fish Hoek
Type of account: Savings Account

Please use the reference: CPPMasiFire

I especially implore members of Cape Town’s Deep South to donate – We live in a very beautiful part of the world and ultimately a happy Masiphumelele can only translate through into a happier and more united Deep South…

See more images below.

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