Johannesburg - It was Lehlohonolo Mthembu’s fourth birthday and his mother had invited his cousin Lethukuthula, 6, to celebrate with them.

On Saturday night, the boy’s mother Lerato left the two at home with the heater on, and when she returned, her flat in Jabulani, Soweto, was ablaze, Smanga Mthembu, the children’s grandfather said.

“I got a call yesterday (on Monday) from my cousin, who said he’d heard that the children had died from all the smoke,” said the 56-year-old from Natalspruit, Ekurhuleni.

Mthembu said that when spoke to his daughter on Monday, she was crying and mumbling.

“She said she left the children and went to Jabulani Mall. When she came back, she saw the smoke and didn’t even check where it was coming from; she ran to search for the children.”

Police spokesman Warrant Officer Kay Makhubela said the fire started at about 11pm and the children died at Zola-Jabulani Hospital.

Lerato, 31, was arrested on Monday on charges of culpable homicide.


According to Makhubela, Lerato took the bodies of the dead children from the hospital on Monday without notifying the police. “They organised their own undertaker to remove the bodies. In terms of the law, they died an unnatural death so they must be taken to a mortuary for a post-mortem.”


Makhubela said Lerato would appear in the Protea Magistrate’s Court soon.

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The Star