Cape Town - Neighbours tried in vain to save six-year-old Buhle Madono from a blazing shack in Tsunami Informal Settlement, Delft, on Sunday.
His eight-year-old brother Luyolo survived and was taken to Tygerberg Hospital with critical burn wounds.
The two boys were alone when the fire started after midnight. Their father had gone to the toilet some distance from their shack.
Neighbours were the first to respond, but “there was nothing we could do, it was too late”, said Priscilla Ntlonze.
“It happened fast. When I woke up my shack was also burning. Initially, we heard the boys screaming ‘daddy, we are dying, help us’. We tried to get inside to save them but the blaze was increasing because of the heavy wind.
“When Msulo Madono (the father of the boys) arrived, he rushed inside to try and help his children, but was stopped by other men because he was also going to burn. He loved his kids. He had bought Christmas clothes for them.”
Ntlonze said the two boys had a strong relationship and would walk together all the time.
“I saw them playing together during the day. They usually played with my son. They were not staying here most of the time. They were staying with their mother in Khayelitsha. They came here to spend Christmas with their father. They loved him because he is a good father.
“It was my first time seeing a man in that state. There is no way of describing how he was. He was prepared to die for his children. We found Luyolo in the cardboard, hiding.”
Ntlonze had been neighbours with Madono for over two years. She said he had wanted to find his children a local school so that they could stay with him.
“I believe they were not attending school. He had spoken to me about finding them a school here,” she said.
Msulo had gone to hospital to be with Luyolo, she said.
Msulo’s phone was on voicemail.