In a fire in Khayamandi on the night of 14-15 March, one man lost his life and more than one thousand three hundred shacks were destroyed. Emergency services had barely commenced giving aid when some inhabitants started clearing up and rebuilding. Numerous informal homes were rebuilt within days. These facts reflect great adversity and hardship.
Members of the Foundations’ executive committee have been involved in Khayamandi as fellow human beings for many years. As fellow citizens of Stellenbosch, our immediate reaction was to help to relieve the immediate pain and loss as much as we could.
Such involvement is not removed from our involvement with heritage and planning in Stellenbosch. Heritage remains alive and only gains meaning through people and their experience of it. Heritage is part of the wider context of place. Preservation of heritage cannot merely be directed towards the past; it survives by means of people experiencing it and therefore is also directed towards the future.
There are key issues that need to be addressed to prevent similar tragedies in Khayamandi in future. Among these: How should informal settlement be assisted meaningfully in Stellenbosch? What is the plan that should inform this? Which process or processes should be implemented? What is the role that local government and citizens should play in these processes?
The inhabitants who energetically and speedily rebuilt their homes after the fire did it because of being without a roof over their heads, but also with the knowledge of the tenuousness of their claim to the place where they have settled. Those inhabitants who delayed building were also aware of the possibility of losing precious square meters or parts of square meters to adjacent neighbours.
The questions that need to be addressed and the processes that have to be initiated, do not present issues that can be addressed easily. They carry a heavy emotional load. We suggest that The National Development Plan of the National Planning Commission, and Chapter 8, on the transformation of human settlements, specifically, would provide a meaningful context within which questions such as these may be asked.
Sustainable Stellenbosch, to which reference is made elsewhere in the newsletter, extends the context for core questions around these issues.