Shocked that her small shack burn down twice this year and her whole family’s belongings go up in flames seemed to be the last straw for Hout Bay domestic worker Crystal Lallo.

In despair, the 40-year-old decided she could not carry on any more and killed herself.

“Whatever went through her mind, she was a very good person,” said her distraught nephew Romano Links.

Links found the body of his “Auntie Tiya” in her rusted corrugated iron shack in Dontse Yakhe, a section of fire-ravaged Imizamo Yethu, on July 18.

Western Cape police spokesperson Sergeant Leon Fortuin confirmed an inquest had been opened.

In the first fire between March 11 and 12, which left thousands homeless and three dead, the Lallos lost everything – from school clothes, to bedding, to furniture.

Ironically, only a Bible was not burnt.

City of Cape Town deputy mayor Ian Nielson said at the time the blaze was one of the worst informal settlement fires the city had experienced.

Crystal’s husband Melvin, a painter, went to the bank to ask for the release of some of their modest savings so that he could build a new shack for the family, and possibly replace some of the bare essentials that they had lost.

Six people lived in the shack – Crystal, Melvin, their children Melanie, 19, and Monefa, 16, Melanie’s  4-year-old son “MJ”, and a nephew, Byron, 28.

 

They had opted to not live in the emergency camp of shacks and portaloos on the Hout Bay sports field which the city had provided, and moved in with the Links family in a small, cheerful, yellow brick house at the bottom of the hill.

And then, just as they were getting their feet back on the ground and had managed to rebuild their shack, it caught fire again in one of the many isolated fires that are rarely reported on.

Once more, they were left with nothing but cinders and blackened corrugated iron to live in. Crystal and Melvin had to move back in with them, said Links. They had to find the money to rebuild for a second time in a year.

Asiphe Koli is a 24-year-old single mum who lives in the emergency camp over the road from Imizamo Yethu.

She and Crystal knew each other in Dontse Yakhe, at the top of Imizamo Yethu, before the fire split them all up.