'I can still hear those children screaming and asking for help.'
Cape Times – A survivor of the shack fire that claimed the lives of eight members of a Khayelitsha family, including five children, says they had received threats their home would be torched.
On Monday, residents of Taiwan informal settlement in Site C, Khayelitsha, were awoken by screams from the Bangani family, whose home was allegedly set alight just after 1am.
They tried in vain to rescue Nonkululeko, 60, Dumile, 44, Wanda, 28, Sisipho, 14, Abongile, 9, Endinako, 7, Athenkosi, 7, and Mvano, 2, all trapped inside one of the three shacks destroyed by the fire.
A 21-year-old woman has been taken in for questioning.
Police have opened a case of arson and an inquest docket.
Police spokesperson FC van Wyk said crime scene experts had searched the scene for clues.
Yonela Bangani, who managed to escape the fire, recounted how she and another person, known as Zizipho, avoided being burnt to death.
The fire wreaked havoc and left a trail of destruction, and the family lost everything.
The 24-year-old Yonela said the bodies of her family were recovered after firefighters had extinguished the fire.
The distraught Yonela told the Cape Times she and nine other people had been sleeping when she started inhaling smoke.
“My child, Endinako, was inside and four other children, my mother and two cousins were inside fast asleep. When I woke up, I woke them all I thought the children had left the house but they ran to the other room.
“I noticed the roof was in flames. There was no fire in my mother’s room at that point. I smelt petrol. I could not find anywhere to escape and stood there helplessly.”
She said she had tried to save the children and screamed for help, but the fire engulfed the room where the children were sleeping.
“I started screaming and my cousin managed to kick down the iron and we escaped,” said Yonela.
Neighbour Nkosiyabo Mngqibisa said he had heard the screams for help and rushed out, but could do nothing because the flames were too intense.
“I still can hear those children screaming and asking for help. The screams will stay with me for a very long time,” said Mngqibisa.
Yonela said that earlier in the evening she was involved in a fight with another woman who had been drinking at their house and who had slapped her uncle.
“I asked her and others to leave the house because I told them they were too young to drink liquor. When we were outside, we started fighting and she and her friends ganged up on me. She threatened that she will burn the house, but at that time I did not take her seriously,” said Yonela.
Family member Asanda Bangani said: “To lose eight family members under these circumstances is saddening. No one was working in this household, they survived on selling meat.”
Social Development MEC Albert Fritz said social workers had provided counselling for the remaining family members.
“We are concerned at allegations made by community members of this being an arson attack,” said Fritz.
He said the department would help the family with accessing the social relief of distress grants and burial assistance.
ANC provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs said the incident was “regrettable”.
He said Minister of Social Development Susan Shabangu would visit the families and all affected people today.