Fire In Zwelitsha


Zwelitsha is the northernmost section of Langrug, which sits on the slope of a mountain. The families here have no access to electricity or washing stations and the shacks are placed sporadically and are not easily accessible.


Cast of Characters

Working group women, WPI teams



When we got to Langrug on Monday, the working group casually mentioned that there had been a fire that morning in Zwelitsha. They had taken pictures of the incident and showed them to us. We decided to walk up there to take a look at the damage. The shack was about as far up the mountain slope as was possible, and it was a tricky, windy hike up to it. The shack had been completely burnt down and the zinc remnants were cast aside. Only one pair of pants and a pair of shoes survived. There were also rocks scattered around it, and the working group explained that since they couldn’t bring water to douse the flames, they attempted to put it out with rocks.


This was a shocking thing to experience. If there is ever a fire at home, emergency vehicles are there in twenty minutes or less and water is always available in some form or other. The fact that the working group had time to stand back and take pictures of the ordeal demonstrates the hopelessness that surrounds this situation in Zwelitsha: if there is a fire, there is basically no stopping it. The women spoke of the fire in a very nonchalant, almost light-hearted way, although their tone may have been sarcastic, and avoided our questions when we asked about the family that was affected. The hopelessness of the situation was overwhelming: our trek up to the shack had been difficult enough without any sense of urgency or the need to carry buckets of water to save someone’s home.