South Africa: Mother Loses Two Children and Friend in Crossroads Fire

26 February 2021

The remains of five-year-old Andikhusele Mhaga, her bother Alunamda, aged three, and 31-year-old Mzwamadoda Dwayi were found among the charred rubble after the shack they were sleeping in caught alight on Friday morning. The sibling's mother, Nolukholo Mhaga, and two other siblings managed to escape the blaze but have nowhere to sleep tonight. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

A man and two siblings aged five and three died when the shack they were asleep in at Thabo Mbeki informal settlement in Crossroads caught alight.

The mother of the children said she only managed to save her two other children from the blaze.

The cause of the fire is yet to be determined.

In a separate fire, 14 families are still battling to rebuild their homes that burnt down in Philippi on Tuesday.

A man and two children aged five and three died on Friday morning when a fire gutted their home in Thabo Mbeki informal settlement in Crossroads, Cape Town.

A distraught Nolukholo Mhaga, 35, told GroundUp that she was asleep with her four children and her friend Mzwamadoda Dwayi, 31, when the fire started outside the door of her shack.

She was awoken by the smoke and quickly grabbed her ten-month-old daughter and son aged seven, covered them with a blanket before jumping over the flames to get out of the shack.

"I asked my friend to do the same with my other two children. He kept on saying he is coming," she said. That was the last time she saw them alive. Mhaga said she had hoped they got out safely as the area became chaotic with neighbours who also came outside to help.

She said that it was only after firefighters had extinguished the fire that she realised that Dwayi, her daughter Andikhusele, aged five, and son Alunamda, aged three, had been trapped inside and died.

"Everything happened so fast I could not save anything from the house. We are only left with what we are wearing, no food, nothing. I don't even know where we are going to sleep today," she said. Mhaga is unemployed and has been relying on child support grants.

The City's Fire and Rescue Services in a statement said it received the emergency call at about 5:30am. The fire was extinguished after 6am and on searching the property the three bodies were found. The cause of the fire is yet to be determined.

In a separate incident earlier this week in Philippi's Zwelitsha informal settlement, 14 shacks were destroyed by a fire. Community leader Vuyo Mamba said the fire started during the day and residents suspect that someone left a stove unattended.

With the City no longer assisting fire and flood victims with emergency building material, Mamba said people were struggling to rebuild their shacks.

Mamba said the 14 families are now living in a community pre-school while trying to rebuild their shacks using the burnt material. Those who rely on SASSA were waiting for their payout this weekend in order to buy some more material.

Bulelani Sodiki, whose shack was gutted, said their current living conditions are not healthy but that they have no choice. "This is an open hall. We are all living here with women and children. We can't even take a bath here; there's no privacy," he said.

Another victim Nomava Dywili lost everything including her children's school uniforms. She said, "My children are no longer going to school. I wish the City could assist us with material because most people here are unemployed, relying on child support grants."

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