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Durban - Four young siblings who were left unattended by their mother burnt to death after their house caught alight in Jozini, northern KwaZulu-Natal.
It has been alleged the mother had left the children inside the house while she went to a tavern on Sunday night in KwaGedleza Village.
It is believed a candle might have sparked the fire while they were sleeping.
Among the dead was seven-year-old Noxolo Mazibuko, who was disabled and could not speak.
Her siblings, five-month-old Amkela Kwesaba, Nkosingizwile Mazibuko, three, and Snegugu Mazibuko, nine, also perished in the blaze.
The children could only be recognised by what was left of the clothing they had been wearing.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, said the mother had not been taken in for questioning as they were waiting for the funeral arrangements to be finalised.
He said at this stage it was unclear when the mother had locked the children in the house. Investigations were still ongoing, Zwane said.
On Wednesday the Daily News visited the family in the village. A neighbour, Philile Msengane, said she was walking home at about 10pm when she noticed the house on fire.
Msengane said she ran towards the tavern where she had earlier seen the children’s mother - Fikile Ginga - to alert her to the fire.
“When I told her about the fire, she did not believe me. She said it was just the reflection of the candle-light that I had seen. But, as we got closer to the house, Fikile realised it was on fire.”
Msengane said when they reached the house, Ginga became hysterical and rushed to the front door.
“She pushed the door down. Noxolo and Snegugu were lying next to each other at the entrance.
“The siblings were holding each other. They were already dead,” she said.
“Fikile screamed ‘where are my children?’. She pulled them out of the burning house and into the front yard. She tried to go back and save the other two. But the flames were too intense.”
Msengane said they heard a gas bottle exploding.
“Fikile just cried and cried. I felt weak at the knees knowing all the children were dead. But I had to be strong for Fikile. She eventually collapsed.”
Msengane said she rallied other neighbours to help put the flames out. “We filled buckets and containers with water and tried to put the flames out. Others threw sand on to the flames. It took us a while but we eventually managed to put out the fire.”
The father of the five-month-old baby, Vusi Kwesaba, said he had spent the whole day with his child. He lives in the same area but not with his girlfriend Fikile.
He said he was shocked at what had happened.
“I want answers. Why were the children left alone?”
Community members said they were upset with the mother for leaving the children unattended.
Some said they were even tempted to kill her. But police prevented this.
Msengane, who has been with Fikile since Sunday, said the mother was in a bad mental state. She said she would be going for counselling.
“She is dizzy, and her mind is not right. She is confused and the things that she speaks do not make sense. She cannot sleep. She says she wants to die.”