The inside of a Pietermaritzburg home that was gutted by a fire, believed to have been caused by a petrol bomb.
DURBAN - A week ago, the Manjra family opened the doors to their new home in Willowton, Pietermaritzburg. Early on Thursday morning they died in a fire, believed to be an alleged arson attack.

While sources close to the arson and murder investigation believe the double-storey Larch Road home was petrol-bombed, police have not officially confirmed this.

Indian national Aziz Manjra and his South African wife Gori Bibi, both 45 years old, two of their children Mehranisa, 15, Rizwan, 10, and an elderly woman, Zubaina (surname unknown) are believed to have succumbed to burns and smoke inhalation.

When the Sunday Tribune visited the scene, the house was abandoned. A window, through which arsonists allegedly threw the petrol bomb, was shattered. Through it, the burnt remnants of a living room could be seen. The stench of smoke and charred wood filled the air.

Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Thulani Zwane said the motive of the attack was unknown. He said there were no “immediate signs” of a robbery.

A neighbour, who declined to be named, said: “They had just moved here so we hardly knew them.”

She said she was awoken by a loud bang. I then heard someone shout ‘Allah’. The next thing I knew, firefighters were bringing their bodies out.”

The Manjras were buried with their children at the Mountain Rise Muslim Cemetery on Friday evening. The body of Zubaina was collected by her family in Johannesburg, said Gori Bibi’s elder sister, Amina Essop.

Essop noted that Zubaina’s story was a symbol of the Manjras’ “hearts of gold”.

In 2016, Zubaina became homeless after being neglected by her family. Gori Bibi opened her home to the woman, who was said to be in her eighties.

Essop recalled that her sister had been “over the moon” when the new house was bought last month as the family had been renting a small sixth floor flat on Pieter- maritz Street for the past decade.

According to one of Manjra’s colleagues at Janoo Wholesalers, the couple bought the house in the aftermath of receiving more than R1million from the Road Accident Fund after a 2015 accident.

Rizwaan had been walking across a busy Church Street intersection when he was struck by a car. He suffered leg pain up to the time of his death.

Ashraf Janoo, Manjra’s employer, said the father of three worked diligently at his shop for 15 years as a salesperson and packer, while his wife and Zubaina worked at a nearby fashion store.

“He never had any gripes, he worked hard and went home to his family. At least we were able to bury them quickly according to Islamic tradition,” Janoo said.

Manjra’s surviving family is his 19-year-old daughter. Her name was withheld by the family to protect her identity as she mourns.

Essop said her brother-in-law had just completed a small Niqqah (wedding) for his daughter over the Easter weekend.

Manjra’s family in India has not yet been contacted as Essop knew little about his life.

The family and friends were set to gather this month to celebrate their daughter’s wedding and have a housewarming party.

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SUNDAY TRIBUNE