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NPA to decide if Naeem Deedat should be prosecuted for the 2011 death of his wife,four young children

Suraya Deedat’s children; Zubair, 6 months, Laaiqa, 2, Fatima Zahraa, 3, and Uzair Deedat, 4, who died with her in a fire at their home in Ormonde, Gauteng, in 2011.

Suraya Deedat’s children; Zubair, 6 months, Laaiqa, 2, Fatima Zahraa, 3, and Uzair Deedat, 4, who died with her in a fire at their home in Ormonde, Gauteng, in 2011.

Published Dec 2, 2021


Durban: The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) will have to decide whether to prosecute Naeem Deedat after the inquest into the death of his wife and their four children found that he could be held accountable.

Magistrate John Maloba made the decision last Tuesday in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court. The inquest aimed to determine if Deedat was involved in the fire that resulted in the deaths.

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On July 12, 2011, a fire broke out at the Deedat household in Ormonde, south of Johannesburg.

Deedat’s wife, Suraya, 31; and their children, Fatima Zahra, 3; Mohammed Uzair, 4; Laaiqa, 2; and Mohamed Zubair, 6 months; died.

Deedat was the sole survivor. He allegedly escaped the fire through the window of the master bedroom’s en suite.

It is alleged that the fire started in the children’s bedroom and that Deedat was in the bathroom at the time. Suraya and the children were found on their backs in the living room.

In November 2017, a police inquest docket was opened to investigate allegations that Deedat was responsible for their deaths. The magistrate ruled that the State’s evidence was inconclusive and was unable to find anyone responsible for the fire.

Suraya’s family were not happy with this decision and contacted the civil rights organisation AfriForum in 2019.

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According to AfriForum’s private prosecution unit, which pushed for the inquest that started in February last year, the magistrate had stated that the inquest ruling could serve as a safety net for the NPA to make a decision to prosecute or not.

At the inquest, advocate Gerrie Nel led evidence on behalf of the family and called experts and witnesses to testify.

Deedat chose not to take the stand, but his legal counsel said that a pillow which had fallen on a heater caused the fire.

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In his closing arguments, Nel called for the State to prosecute on five counts of murder.

“In the main and in summary, we argue that it remains inexplicable and even disturbing that the one survivor and husband/father of the deceased decided not to contribute or assist the court in making a just finding.”

Nel said the evidence was against Deedat.

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“The circumstantial evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of a finding that the death was brought about by an act prima facie amounting to an offence (murder) on the part of Naeem Deedat.”

Nel argued that Deedat survived without any injuries and that his beard had not even been singed.

He said the bodies of the victims were found in the supine position (lying horizontally with the face and torso facing up) in the living area.

This, he said, indicated that they had not attempted to flee.

Nel said Suraya’s body was found about six meters away from her 6-monthold baby and that a fire accelerant was possibly used to fuel the fire.

He further submitted that the door of the main bedroom with the en suite bathroom from where Deedat escaped through the window was, according to all the expert witnesses as well as first responding officer, Warrant Officer Jacobus Venter, locked from the inside.

Rehana Ismail, Suraya’s sister, said the decision by Maloba gave them hope that justice would be served.

“We are incredibly pleased with the outcome and we hope the decision by the NPA is a favourable one, so that Naeem is able to get what he deserves. Our heartfelt thanks to AfriForum and advocate Gerrie Nel for their tremendous effort and work.

“We are indebted to them. God knows the lengths my mother went to to try and get justice for my sister, and it was only AfriForum that chose to help us. We are so grateful."

Ismail said the past 10 years had been a struggle for the family and this was a step in the right direction.

“It’s been difficult, especially for my mom and dad. Not a day goes by when we don’t think about Suraya and the children.”

She said she was disappointed with the way Deedat handled the incident and that was what caused them to grow suspicious.

“Three days after the incident, he cut off all ties. When my dad called him to ask him what had happened, he refused to sit down with him. He was rude and arrogant.”

Ismail said Suraya was the third of five siblings and that they were close.

“Suraya was a beautiful person inside and out. She was a kind, patient person and worked hard on her marriage and for her children.

“Suraya was the breadwinner of the home and Naeem was unemployed. She ran a chicken and seafood business from her home and would do private tuition to support her family.”

Natasha Venter, adviser at AfriForum’s private prosecution unit, said the inquest decision was a victory for justice.

“This is one of the worst cases of gender-based violence we have encountered and we will continue to assist Suraya’s family in the matter. Should the NPA, despite the overwhelming evidence led by the unit during the inquest, decide not to prosecute, we will consider private prosecution,” said Venter.

The NPA is expected to make a decision early next year on whether to prosecute.

Deedat’s legal representative did not respond at the time of publication.

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