Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Fire alarm

The potentially devastating impact of uncontrolled fires is graphically illustrated by the fact that more than 9 000 shacks were razed in the city of Cape Town and its surrounds last year, leaving 114 people dead.

It is evident from these shocking statistics that the people on the sharp edge of this particular natural hazard are, once again, the poorest of the poor. These are, of course, the people that our city's leaders tell us they are most committed to protecting and uplifting.

And yet the same leaders have slashed the City of Cape Town's fire services budget to such an extent that right now there are at least 120 fewer firefighters to battle these fires. And right now, with heat and strong winds, we are in the traditional fire season...

David Sasman, a councillor on the city council's safety and security committee, said that the cuts were being made mainly to fund the N2 Gateway housing project because money promised for it by the province had not been received yet... despite Housing officials told not to 'plead poverty' and R800 mill housing budget not spent

Diverting funding to the housing project and yet leaving shack dwellers increasingly vulnerable to fires - and, therefore, increased homelessness - seems to be, well, playing with fire.

The Editor

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