Gisozi fires leave businesses with uncertain future

Emille Kalinda was yesterday found seated in the same spot where his structures and workshop stood before they were consumed in a fire. Hudson Kuteesa.

Business operators have cried out over the uncertainty of their work as fires continue to menace Gisozi workshops.

Yesterday in the morning, fire gutted the area destroying property worth around Rwf20 million.

This is the second incident in the same place in less than 20 days. Earlier this month, another fire destroyed property estimated to be worth Rwf80 million.

The fire destroyed furniture, carpentry equipment, among other property belonging to about five businesses.

Jean Baptiste Habimana, a workshop owner of most of the destroyed property, decried the setback and confessed not to be having an immediate plan to make up for the losses.

He said that some of the capital he was using was a bank loan, something that makes the situation even harder.

“I can’t say I have a plan now. I think we have to start from scratch,” he said.

Papias Nsengiyumva, a carpenter in the same area, said he lost property worth about Rwf800,000.

“It is the only capital I had. I have a wife and four children. Life is a problem now,” he said.

The fires and their effect

Emile Kalinda is one of the business people who were left astounded by the unfortunate events of fires that have menaced Gisozi workshops this month.

On the fateful morning of June 2, his workshop worth about  Rwf4 million, as well as the property of about eight tenants that were renting his structure were all gutted by fire, leaving behind losses estimated at about Rwf30 million.

This was not all! The fire also burnt property of neighbouring businesses causing damages which, according to Kagara village administration, are estimated at Rwf80 million.

Fifteen-days on, just like many other victims of the tragedy, Kalinda says life is difficult since business has halted as a result of having no workplace.

“I have spent about 15 days, only coming and standing here. There is nothing I can do,” he says.

He said that this is almost the same situation his tenants are in. However, for him as a workshop owner, he has even a larger burden since he might have to refund a number of people that had ordered for furniture and paid him in advance.

By the time of the fire, he had about 15 orders of clients who had paid him. The one who had paid least had given him about Rwf100,000.

Some of them have taken him to authorities, demanding about Rwf1.1 million in refund altogether.

“The authorities have not yet taken a decision concerning the cases,” he said.

His major concern, however, is finding where to work from

“I have a family and I used to get everything from here, from the school fees of the children to other needs,” he said.

“Clients come here to place orders, but when they see that the workshop was burnt, they say we will come back when I get a new workplace”.

In the aftermath of the fire, he received some support from friends and tried to rebuild the structure, only to be forced to remove it by the sector administration, “because he had no permission.”

“I have my hands and my head, but I don’t have where to work from, so I can’t use them,” he lamented.

Beatrice Dusabe, a lady tenant in one of Kalinda’s structures, said the tragic event left her financially crippled.

“I had paid Rwf200,000 in rent for four months, but the structure was burnt before I could start to work,” she said, adding that she also lost mattresses worth about Rwf1 million she had stocked in the room she rented.

Electricity blamed for fires

All the people The New Times interviewed blamed electricity as a potential cause of the fires.

“90 per cent of the cause might be electricity because we don’t have people who smoke cigarettes in our workplace,” Alex Habimana said, suspecting that poor installation could have been the cause of short circuit.

Insurance

Some of the businesses in the workshop areas are insured, though some are not.

Kalinda told The New Times that his property was not insured but his neighbour’s was.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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