Community rallies to help after fire


Neighbours watch as fire fighters dampen hot spots at Lovey Mpolweni’s home in Fingo Mission on Friday 19 July 2019. Photos: Sue Maclennan

The Makhanda community has come to the assistance of two families left destitute after a fire destroyed their adjoining shacks and all their contents yesterday morning in the Mission area of Fingo Village. The fire started shortly before 11.30am on Friday 19 July. Neighbours said a young child had brought a burning brazier inside the Orsmond Terrace home and it had set fire to a bed. The fire quickly spread, the neighbour told Grocott’s Mail, razing not only the Mpolweni family’s home, but also the adjoining shack of Esther Tom and Sithembele Masinda.

A baby’s walker rescued from the Mpolwenis’ home in Fingo Mission when it caught fire.

Neighbours said two young children had been at home in the care of a relative. The relative had been unaware of what was happening. However, neighbours acted quickly to remove everyone from the corrugated iron home and no injuries were reported.

Residents in the area quickly took in the two families. In the Mpolweni family are a 14-month old girl and two boys, aged 8 and 14. Masinda wasn’t certain of the exact ages of the children in their home, but estimated them to be 5, 8 and 12.

Sunnyside residents were distressed to see a home go up in smoke across the valley around 11.30am Friday 19 July 2019. Photo: Shepi Mati

A fire fighter walks past the outside toilet – all that remains of Lovey Mpolweni’s home in Fingo Mission on Friday 19 July 2019. Photo: Sue Maclennan








Residents at that point (around 1.30pm) said apart from the rapid and efficient response from the Fire Department, they’d not yet seen any municipal officials or councillors. On calling various individuals, Grocott’s Mail discovered that many of them were attending out-of-town meetings. As the temperature started dropping, it was clear the family needed support immediately.

Marylin Tesnar and Penny Nelson of PG Glass hand over to Grocott’s Mail blankets and clothing for the Mpolweni and Tom families collected during the PG Cares campaign

Sithembele Masinda, Phumla Mpolweni and Lovey Mpolweni were grateful to receive warm clothing collected during the PG Cares campaign.








For this reason the Grocott’s Mail team called on PG Glass Grahamstown, where we selected warm clothing and blankets collected by the Bathurst Street business for the PG Cares campaign and took them to the family.

Meanwhile, a post on Grocott’s Mail’s Facebook page received a huge response, with many asking how and where they could help. A call from Gift of the Givers soon followed, offering food, clothing and blankets. Attempts yesterday afternoon to ascertain what assistance Makana Municipality could provide were at that time unsuccessful.

This morning, we visited the family together with Gift of the Givers. We handed over more clothing from the PG Cares collection for the Tom children, and Gift of the Givers handed over food parcels, mattresses and frozen chicken and vegetables so the families directly affected and those hosting them could cook a hot meal in today’s chilly weather.

Some Sunnyside residents, horrified yesterday to see the shack go up in flames across the valley, this morning delivered more clothing to the families, and have appealed through social media groups for specific items.

Residents said this morning that they’d received a visit from Makana councillors, who told them assistance from the Sarah Baartman District Municipality’s Disaster Management unit was on its way; however, because this was based in Port Elizabeth it would not be immediate.

Neighbour Yoliswa Bangani said this was the third time a shack built in that spot had burnt down. “One year a woman died in a fire,” she said.

Many residents spoke angrily about the predicament of residents in the area, saying they were  promised RDP houses more than eight years ago. “If they built us houses, this wouldn’t have happened,” said Nombali Ogqoyi. “I’m angry.”

Grocott’s Mail will report on the stalled Mission area housing development in a future edition.

Neighbours comfort the Mpolweni family.

Neighbours watch as fire fighters dampen hot spots at Lovey Mpolweni’s home.







On Sunday 21 July the Sarah Baartman District Disaster Management team arrived in Mission, Fingo Village,with Mayoral Committee Member, Councillor Ramie Xonxa and ward councillor Luyanda Sakata to hand the the Mpolweni and Tom families mattresses and blankets. Yoliswa Bangani, a member of the Community Policing Forum (CPF), said neighbours had been trying to assist where they could. Sakata promised the family he would continue to assist the families until they get new identity documents to replace those burnt in last Friday’s fire. – Additional reporting by Lindani Donyeli

Community members receiving blankets and matresses from the Sarah Baartman District Disaster Management team on Sunday 21 July after the Mpolweni home in Fingo Mission burnt down on Friday. Photo: Lindani Donyeli


If you’d like to donate food or clothing for this family, please drop it off at one of the Round Table Winter Knights collection points…/winter-knights-collection-poi…/ and mark it for the Mpolwenis and/ or Toms. These collection points are operational during the week.

Now that the families’ immediate needs have mostly been attended to, we recommend donating through the Winter Knights campaign. In this way, if there are more clothing, blankets and food than those two families need, it can be given to other families that may not be facing the same sort of immediate crisis, but who are in need.

Sergeant Vika at the Grahamstown Police Station will also receive food and clothing for the families. Mark it for her attention when you drop it off.

Winter Knights set to defeat the cold

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