Cape Town (South Africa) – When their Crossroads shack caught fire in the early hours of Friday morning, a mother of seven could only save two of her children.
Andikhusele Mhaga, 5, her brother Alunamda Mhaga, 3, and adult Mzwamadoda Dwayi, 31, died, according to a spokesperson for the Cape Town Fire & Rescue Service, Jermaine Carelse.
He said they got an emergency call about 5.30 a.m., alerting them to a fire in the Thabo Mbeki Informal Settlement, which is located on the corner of Symphony Way and Govan Mbeki Lane.
“Gugulethu Fire and Rescue Service was the first on the scene, and firefighters were told that people were missing,” he said.
Carelse went on to state that they were able to put out the fire shortly after 6 a.m. and discovered the bodies after searching the house. The cause of the fire, he said, is unknown, and the scene has been turned over to the SAPS. Nolukholo Mhaga, a mother of two children, said Dwayi was a friend who had asked for a place to sleep.
“While we were sleeping, my friend came knocking, asking for a place to sleep because he had been arguing with his sister,” she explained.
Dwayi’s sister came to check on them, Mhaga said, and then left; the next thing she knew, there was smoke in her shack and fire coming from the house. She says that two of her children do not live with her and that the oldest was not present when the fire began.
“I was sleeping with my four children when I saw smoke everywhere, so I took two of them and asked a friend to come out with the other two,” she explained.
Mhaga said she continued to yell, pleading with Dwayi to come out with the children, but he did not respond until the fire became too intense to enter the shack.
The bereaved mother reported that she had lost everything in the fire and had to borrow the nightgown she was wearing from her neighbors.
Since she is unemployed, she claimed that starting from scratch would be difficult. She said, “I don’t know how to feel; I still can’t believe I lost my children and everything I own.”
Mhaga said she is unemployed and is relying on two of her children’s social grants, and she has no idea where she will get the funds to bury them. A death inquest case has been opened, according to police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk.
“A 31-year-old man and two girls, ages 5 and 3, died in the fire; the cause of the fire is still under investigation, and no foul play is anticipated at this time,” he said. Mila Mpayipheli, a community leader, said they don’t know what started the fire.
“We don’t have fires very much here, but like any other informal settlement, we need houses to avoid fire deaths,” she explained.