Riot Hlatshwayo and Nomcebo Khulu
Fire destroyed the double-storey mansion of a prominent Mpuma- langa businessman, John Brown, after firefighters failed to show up.
Brown's wife, Emily , said she contacted the fire brigade in nearby Thulamahashe township when the fire broke out at the weekend, but was told firefighters were on strike.
The first floor of the mansion, in Shatale township near Bushbuckridge, caught fire while Emily was watching television in the bedroom. Her 11-year-old daughter, Charity, was also watching television in the lounge when the fire broke out at about 5pm.
"I was watching television in the bedroom when the electricity suddenly went off. My daughter rushed in to tell me that the power was out," said Emily yesterday.
She said she asked her daughter to check the mains switch.
Patrons in the family's adjacent beer hall reported that a fire had broken out on the first floor.
"When I checked, I discovered we only had four 20-litre water containers and there was no water in the taps ," said Emily.
With little to fight the fire, it quickly spread to other rooms, destroying furniture and causing the roof to cave in.
When Brown arrived, he tried to use a small fire extinguisher to put out the fire, but to no avail.
"I called the fire brigade, but was told they couldn't help because they were all on strike.
"And so we had to watch helplessly as our house went up in flames," said Brown.
Six rooms, a library and household goods were destroyed.