Couple perish in SST informal settlement fire

More than 150 shacks were destroyed in the fire.

The families of a couple who lost their lives in their two-roomed shack in SST informal settlement during a fire are still battling to come to grips with their sudden death.

The fire took place last Sunday, destroying 152 shacks and leaving 532 people homeless.

When Vukani visited the scene the following morning, residents were clearing the debris while others were rebuilding their shacks using the damaged material.

Relatives of Sipho Mthini, 39, and Neliswa Benya, 35 were being comforted by residents and members of Harare police station.

A cousin of Ms Benya, Hlumisa Ngwantu, said her cousin leaves behind two children aged 13 and 9.

Ms Ngwantu said they were devastated to learn about her death. “We are not sure whether it is her because both these bodies are burnt beyond recognition and we will wait for DNA results.

“But if it is not her then where is she because her boyfriend had been found dead in his shack. We are just hopeful that it is not her but they were together last night. That is what we have learnt here. We are really traumatised,” she said.

A cousin of Mr Mthini, Siyabulela Mtwazi, said as soon he learnt that shacks were on fire, he immediately went to his brother’s shack and also called him to open the door.

He said the door was locked and smoke had already started covering up the shacks.

He said when he received no response he thought maybe his cousin had slept at his girlfriend’s place and went there to check on them.

But, he said, he was shocked when he was informed that they had left a while ago.

“I have not informed the entire family yet and I can tell you that we are not taking this well.

“His parents are in the Eastern Cape and everything that was in his house has been lost. I mean there are no words to tell you how one feels – I feel numb honestly,” he said.

Mr Mtwazi said he lives around the same area but they do not have any idea of how the fire started and it spread quickly due to the strong wind.

Harare police station spokesperson, Warrant Officer Nosiphiwo Mtengwane, said an inquest had been opened at the station and a detective has been assigned to investigate and provide families with relevant assistance.

She said DNA tests must be conducted and they have already spoken with the families and this process will take some time to be finalised.

In a media statement issued by the City of Cape Town, they confirmed the two fatalities and said the others who were displaced affected are staying with friends and relatives or accommodated at a local church in the area.

Gift of the Givers spokesperson Ali Sablay said they assisted the victims with food and necessities, and will do so for the next five days.