By Lynnia Ndlovu in Filabusi
Nothing beats the agony of watching your grandchildren escaping from an inferno crying for help while their bodies are engulfed in fire. It becomes even worse if, a few hours later the children die from the injuries sustained from the burns.
But that is the picture a grandmother in Filabusi in Matabeleland South will live with for the rest of her life after watching her two grandkids burning and then dying from the burns after one of the huts they were in caught fire.
The two minors from Phikelela Village under Chief Ndube were burnt while their disabled nine-year-old brother watched helplessly after their mother left them unattended and one of the huts caught fire on Friday.
The two children, Wandile Sibanda (1) and Shantelle Siziba (4) were burnt in an inferno when their mother, Buhlebenkosi Siziba (23) left them in the custody of their disabled brother while she was going to fetch water.
It is not clear how the fire started but villagers suspect that the children could have lit matches and locked themselves inside at around 9am.
Siziba is said to have left her home early in the morning leaving her four-year-old niece and baby Wandile in the custody of her nine-year-old step-son, Talent Siziba who when the fire started could not do anything to save his sisters.
Their grandmother, Mariah Sibanda who had also gone to fetch firewood arrived while the fire was still raging.
She endured the agony of watching her screaming grandchildren burn and later dying at hospital. She recounted the ordeal to Sunday News yesterday:
“I had gone to fetch firewood in the forest and when I returned I saw a lot of smoke coming from my home, that is when I saw that one of the huts was on fire. Villagers were already gathered trying to put out the fire and save my grandchildren who were crying for help inside. Their mother had not yet returned from the river.
“Firstly, they removed one of them who was already approaching the door trying to escape, I then quickly recalled another was inside. They then removed her but she was in a very bad situation with burns all over her body.
“That was the most painful encounter as I had never seen such a thing in my life. I still hear their screams even today and I don’t think it will end. They were taken to Filabusi District Hospital where they were transferred to United Bulawayo Hospitals but they died upon arrival.”
Sibanda said the bodies were still in Bulawayo adding that if all the paperwork is sorted out the family was planning to bury them tomorrow.
When a Sunday News crew arrived at the homestead, some of the goods that were destroyed in the fire had been removed while villagers were gathering for the funeral. One of the villagers who assisted in the rescuing of the children, Mr Mike Ndlovu said those who witnessed the incident had been left traumatised by the incident.
“When we arrived at the home, the hut was already engulfed in fire. The door was also locked from inside and we could not easily open it. Someone then broke the window. Some were trying to douse the flame using soil and water but it was almost late.
“We managed to forcibly break windows and lifted asbestos using metal. When we reached for the children they were badly burnt although they were still alive. You could not easily identify them because their skins had been burnt,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Chief Ndube whose jurisdiction covers the area said she was shocked by the incident.
“I heard about the death of those two children and I am very sorry to the family. I encourage them to be strong because it’s not easy to lose a loved one in such a way,” she said. Sunday News