Gerrie Nel wants justice for mom, kids killed in home fire
Durban - IN 2011, Naeem Deedat’s wife and four children died after a fire gutted their recently purchased home in Ormonde, south of Johannesburg.
He was the sole survivor.
The fire started on the morning of July 13, after one of his children’s pillows fell onto an electric heater in their room. Deedat’s wife, Suraya, 31, had gone to check on the children who slept in one room.
That’s when she saw the fire and shouted for help.
While she was trying to stir the children from their sleep, Deedat collected water from the nearby bathroom to douse the flames.
According to a report, published in the POST in 2011, the bodies of Suraya and her children - Uzair, 4, Fatima Zahraa, 3, Laiqua, 1, and 6-month-old Zubair - were found in the lounge.
They died of smoke inhalation.
Deedat, who was trapped in the bathroom, shouted through the window for help. His neighbour, Ashley Jones, used an angle grinder to remove the burglar bars to free him.
In November 2017, an inquest into allegations that Deedat was somehow involved in their deaths was held at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court.
However, Magistrate Botha ruled that the State’s evidence was inconclusive to find any person responsible for the fire.
Suraya’s family has not recovered from their deaths.
They contacted civil rights organisation, AfriForum, early last year and today another inquest will start in same courthouse.
Speaking ahead of the inquest, Suraya’s brother Abdul said they had been trying to get justice for nine years.
“The first time, the case was thrown out, but this time, with the help of AfriForum, we are positive there will be a different outcome.”
He said the circumstances that led to his sister and her children’s deaths were suspicious.
“Their bodies were found by the lounge and the baby’s body was about a metre and a half away from my sister. Which mother will leave her child that far from her during a fire?”
He said they were more concerned after Deedat remarried a few months later.
“He never explained what happened that night and never spoke about a second marriage until it happened. How could he move on so quickly?”
Abdul said Suraya was kind and timid.
Deedat told the POST this week that the second inquest would open old wounds.
“It is traumatic to relive the events of what happened. It makes it harder to heal and come to terms with what happened.
“I think about that night all the time and although I have remarried, I still talk about Suraya and the kids.”
He said prayer and counselling helped him with the pain of losing his family and it hurt when Suraya’s family accused him of having a hand in their deaths.
“Before the fire, we never had any issues but once everything started, they have been coming after me. They held an inquest two years ago and nothing came of it. I was proven innocent but they are still requesting inquests.
“We all need closure but I cannot be made out to be the bad guy when I tried everything to save my family.”
Deedat’s attorney Shaheen Seedat said: “To go back to court to face another inquest inquiry is traumatic as he has to relive the incident It does not get easier after losing one’s loved ones after all these years. He is, however, positive and confident he will prove his innocence.
“This was purely an accident and he did whatever he could to save his family.”
He said Jones, another neighbour, and a policeman removed the burglar bars that day.
“Had they not assisted, Naeem would have also died.”
In a statement, AfriForum said the head of its private prosecution unit, advocate Gerrie Nel, would represent Suraya’s family.
Nel, is a South African advocate, who was with the NPA until January 2017.
Has has done many high profile cases and was the lead prosecutor in the 2014 trial of Oscar Pistorius for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp.