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Five relatives killed in Khayelitsha blaze

Published May 16, 2022

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CAPE TOWN - It’s like I am in a dream. I just can't believe it”

This is how Phozisa Gqomfa reacted to the deaths of five relatives including two children who died when a fire destroyed their shack in France informal settlement, Khayelitsha, on Sunday.

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Those killed were Nosimphiwe Tafeni, 58, Zakhele Matshikiza, 30, Apelele Tafeni, 17, Nkazimlo Tafeni, 5, and 3-year-old Melokuhle Tafeni.

It is believed that the family was asleep when the fire started about 4.30am.

Detailing the horror, Gqomfa said they heard children screaming for help.

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“When we went out to see what was happening, we saw a fire blazing. We tried to extinguish it using buckets but the fire (grew). I was worried about the little ones because I could hear them crying. We could not save them because the burglar (bars) were locked and they could not see the key. There was too much smoke. I am really devastated by this. No person deserves to die in this way.” She said they were now making funeral arrangements.

“It's like I am in a dream. I just can't believe it. I don't know what could be the cause of this fire but I suspect that there was a problem with the electricity connection. It is very painful when a person dies and there is nothing you can do to save them,” said Gqomfa.

City Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said a fire crew from Lansdowne Road fire station were confronted by a fully engulfed structure when they arrived on the scene. “Three adults and two children died in a blaze in Site B, Khayelitsha, (on) Sunday. The City’s Fire and Rescue Service was alerted to the fire at 4.30am, with reports indicating that an informal structure was burning in France Informal Settlement.

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“As firefighting operations ensued the bodies of three adults – a man, a woman, and one whose gender is unknown – as well as those of a boy and girl were discovered. They had succumbed to fatal burn wounds.

The fire was extinguished just after 5.20am and the scene was handed over to the police just after 6am,” said Carelse.

Police spokesperson FC Van Wyk said an inquest docket had been opened. “Khayelitsha police are investigating an inquest case. The cause of the fire is unknown,” said Van Wyk.

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Meanwhile Bishop Lavis residents came out in their numbers to remember two children recently killed in a fire and for the safe return of missing two-month-old baby, Kai-isha Meniers.

The bodies of brothers Xache Weideman, 7, and Juane Ray Weideman, 4, were found after the fire destroyed a residence in Arthur Abrahams Avenue on May 5.

Last night, residents gathered at the Real Life Christian Centre to remember the minors. The Weideman boys’ mother, Chenay Engelbrecht, said her emotions were still raw.

“Today I had a moment to burst out in tears because I had to be alone with God and feel his presence. Although my children died tragically, I feel uplifted because I know my children are watching over me and helping me get through this difficult time.

“I miss them and at times I feel weak but then God shows that he has not forsaken me. My children are like angels carrying me through,” said Engelbrecht.

Van Wyk said they were still awaiting a forensic report and the investigation continued.

“Bishop Lavis police members attended a crime scene in Arthur Abrahams Street on (May 5) at around 00.02am. Upon arrival they found a house on fire. The police members called for the assistance of the fire brigade.

When the fire was extinguished and the crime scene investigators started their investigation, they discovered the bodies of two minors who were fatally injured.

The victims were declared deceased on the scene by the medical personnel. Bishop Lavis police registered an inquest docket for further investigation,” said Van Wyk.

Bishop Lavis Religious Forum spokesperson Amanda Davids said the gathering aimed to show the affected families that they had the support of the community.

Anyone with information on the incidents can anonymously contact Crime Stop at 086 0010 111 or SMS Crime Line at 32211.

Cape Times

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