File image:

Durban - A KwaZulu-Natal father is devastated after losing all four of his children in a fire on New Year’s Day.

An inconsolable Phiwa Mthembu said he blames the children’s mother for the deaths of Mndeni, two, Nokuphiwa, four, Siyabonga, six, and Ntokozo, eight, after she locked the children inside the house and allegedly went to a party.

“I was out working, trying to give my family a decent life and she was out with her friends having a jol,” said the distraught father from Mzingwenya Reserve Area, near Richards Bay.

The three boys and a girl were allegedly locked in the house by their mother before she went out at about 10pm on Wednesday, said police spokesman captain Thulani Zwane.

“According to the mother, the light wouldn’t work and that’s when she decided to light a candle and leave it in the bedroom where all the kids were sleeping,” he said.

An hour later, the mother received a frantic call from her neighbours, telling her that her house was on fire and that they could hear screams coming from inside.


“The neighbours told me they tried breaking down the door and windows when they saw black smoke coming from the house,” said Mthembu, his voice breaking with emotion.

“Apparently my kids were still alive at that time because they could hear them crying for help.”

The neighbours contacted the mother when they failed to douse the inferno.

Firemen and police rushed to the scene, but when they arrived two of the children were already dead.

“Two of the children were burnt beyond recognition and the other two were rushed to the clinic but they died on arrival,” said Zwane.

Speaking fondly of his “beautiful” children, Mthembu said the youngest, Mndeni, was the brightest.

“He was such a clever young chap. He knew me and would come running towards me when I returned home from work,” he said.

Nokuphiwa was excited about starting pre-school, while Siyabonga was “daddy’s big boy” who was getting ready for grade 1.

Ntokozo had passed into grade 2. “Now they’re all gone,” he said. “All my children are gone.”

Zwane said no arrest had been made. “An inquest docket has been opened and the investigation is ongoing,” he said. - Independent on Saturday