Pretoria - The Kirkney, Pretoria West, mother who lost four children and a helper in a house fire last November struggled to contain her tears yesterday morning when she spoke of the pain of losing her children and her home.
Magatikele Mashiloane, 43, was speaking at the handing over of the keys to her new home by Human Settlements and Urban Planning MEC Lebogang Maile.
Recalling the events of that day, she said she had been carrying her youngest son, who escaped the fire with her, when neighbours broke open burglar bars minutes before her other children went quiet from suspected smoke inhalation.
The fire broke out at about 1.30am on November 10, and at the time Tshwane Emergency Services said they received a call and dispatched firefighters to the scene. The first unit found the house engulfed in fire, with parts of the roof having already collapsed.
Bystanders explained that about five people were trapped inside, but the mother and young son had managed to escape the blaze with minor scratches and smoke inhalation.
The area had experienced load shedding the previous night, and some suspected that the fire could have been caused by an electrical appliance that had been left on.
The tragedy of the mother losing her children – aged 6, 18, 22 and 24 – touched the hearts of many people.
Various parties, including the City of Tshwane, the Gauteng government and the ValuMax Group committed to giving her and her 4-year-old child who survived another home.
Yesterday, Mashiloane shed tears of joy when she was given a new house by Maile. She said while she could never get her children back, she would always remember them.
Maile handed her the keys to a three-bedroomed house worth R700 000 in Soshanguve Block VV.
“I’m happy to receive this new home because it really makes a difference in my life and gives me and my son a place we can call home. It is still very sad and painful to think about what happened last year and it will remain that way for a long time,” Mashiloane said.
“To us as a family it means a great deal. We cannot thank the department and everyone who was involved enough. We have not yet decided on a date to move in, but now that we have received the keys we will make that decision,” said Mashiloane.
She was seeing the house for the first time with relatives who came to support her.
She told Maile, who took her on a tour of the house, never to undermine the efforts of what the provincial government had done for her and her child.
Maile said it was inspiring and encouraging to see the private sector, and in particular ValuMax, forgo profit to assist people who needed help when the government asked.
He said the government could not give or build the Mashiloane family’s home from its coffers because it sat with a housing backlog of more than one million houses.
“We are happy to have lived up to the commitment that we made. The government cannot solve all the problems, but if we work with the private sector we should make a dent. We are happy to be where we are today.”