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Boys fail to save burning man

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A relative of Lebogang John Mankwe is comforted by an unnamed friend shortly after the incident. Picture: Danie van der Lith

Kimberley - Heroic attempts by two young Kimberley boys to rescue a man, who was screaming for his life, from his burning shanty in Galeshewe were futile… and they had to listen from behind a locked door as the man burned to death.

“We tried to kick open the shanty’s door but it did not open. We tried breaking into the shack using stones, but this too did not work. All this time we could hear Lebogang John Mankwe scream in agony for help. We tried everything but nothing seemed to work,” one of the teenagers said.

The two boys, who preferred that their names not be published, are both 16 and, when they realised that their rescue attempts were failing, they called for help from neighbours and other members of the public.

“Everyone ran around with buckets of water trying to extinguish the fire. But by the time the flames had subsided, it was already too late for him (Mankwe),” the boys said.

The burning shanty was located at the back of 30-year-old Mankwe’s parents’ main house.

According to members of the community, the Sol Plaatje Fire Brigade only arrived after they had extinguished the fire.

“Some of us were so angry at the fire fighters that we wanted to throw stones at them. The situation was tense and that is why they (the fire fighters) eventually left,” some of the residents said.

The Sol Plaatje Municipality, however, stated that its fire fighters extinguished the burning shack.

“The fire fighters received a call regarding the incident at 7.36pm (on Saturday evening) and 17 minutes later they called in to report that the fire had been extinguished,” municipal spokesman, Sello Matsie, said.

He added that the response time of the fire brigade was being measured by the municipality and that delays normally happened when members of the public first alert the police then only later the fire brigade.

“There are situations where the fire bridge is contacted by the police who are already on the scene. This obviously causes delays.

“But we are doing our best to attend to emergencies on time,” he said.

Matsie added that their investigations have revealed that a cigarette lighter might have started the fire.

Inside the Mankwe family’s house, distraught members of the family were still battling to come to terms with the loss.

Although there were claims that Mankwe committed suicide, his family members were quick to deny these.

“He was drunk and we suspect that the cigarette he had on him earlier could have started the fire while he was sleeping inside the shanty,” family members said.

Mankwe’s sister, Kediemetse Mankwe, said that they were not at home at the time of the incident.

Fighting to hold back the tears, she described how, in the hours leading up to the tragedy, her brother was fighting with their mother.

“He had demanded food from her before swearing at her. He had been drinking earlier. Because of his behaviour, we all decided to lock the main house and leave him in his shanty,” Kediemetse said.

She said that they then left to visit friends in the area and that they were later told that their brother’s shanty was on fire.

“When we got back to the house it was still burning and we helped to extinguish the flames,” she added.

Northern Cape police spokeswoman Lieutenant Andrea Cloete said the police are investigating the incident.

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