Penny Appeal SA Partners with Lumkani to Donate Early-Warning Fire-Detection Systems in Masiphumelele

Every year, townships around the country are devastated by rapid and widespread shack fires, often leading to loss of property and possessions, and sometimes, the tragic demise of precious lives. The combination of strong winds, flammable building materials and densely populated settlements with few access roads make informal communities extremely vulnerable to the spread of uncontrollable fires that are difficult to put out, and often, there isn’t enough time to warn residents and get them out safely.


In order to mitigate damages and prevent loss of life, Penny Appeal South Africa partnered with Lumkani in August 2018 to donate and distribute 100 early-warning devices within Masiphumelele, a township in Cape Town. Lumkani is the name for the compact device that acts as an early-warning system to reduce the destruction caused by the spread of slum fires in urban informal settlements. The ‘fire-detection device’ concept was born from a collaboration between Samuel Ginsberg, a lecturer from the Electrical Engineering Department at the University of Cape Town, and his student, Francois Petousis, who came up with a solution to the problem, which they named Lumkani – a solution that would change the lives of thousands of people.

When the risk of a fire arises, the detectors send out an early-warning alarm, networked within a 60-metre radius, which allows people to evacuate their living spaces, and for help to be alerted. This, in turn, allows for the community to become pro-active in ensuring that the risk of injury and loss of life can be averted, belongings can be salvaged and disasters minimised. The collaboration with Lumkani was smoothly implemented, along with the help of the community liaison officer, who provided excellent support in identifying locations and areas where the devices should be installed.

Residents who inhabit the Masiphumelele informal settlement will undisputedly benefit from this intervention, as being signalled as soon as a fire breaks out will allow them to grab their most important belongings, gather loved ones, and immediately evacuate the affected area. 

In addition to Penny Appeal SA’s generous blanket distribution and provision of warm meals during the winter months, this charitable organisation wanted to invest more in the safety and wellbeing of our fellow South African citizens.

We hope to see Lumkani early-warning fire-detection systems allocated across all local townships in future, as this innovative invention could be the answer to saving homes, personal effects and most importantly, lives. 

For more information, please contact Shaheen Sha from Penny Appeal SA on 081 407 2753 or email

To learn more about Lumkani, visit their website