Child torches family home playing 'house'

Elijar Mushiana

Seven members of a family in Limpopo have been left homeless after their seven-year-old child set alight two of their mud huts while playing with matches, police said.

Witnesses told police that the child was playing with the matches next to a pile of dry grass that was to be used to thatch another hut.

Edwin Rathiyaya, the child's grandfather, said that all the family's belongings were lost in the fire.

"We lost valuable things such as our identity documents, food, clothes and blankets. Even the children's certificates were burnt," Rathiyaya said.

Rathiyaya, who is unemployed, said his family survived on child-support grants and by taking occasional temporary jobs.

He said that though the community had donated food parcels and clothes, the family would find it hard to cope after the loss of their few possessions

The devastated grandfather said he did not know what had made the child decide to play with matches .

He said: "She told me that she played with the matches because she was cooking mud pies as a childhood game .

"But she failed to control the fire because she was alone and playing next to a pile of dry grass."

He said he intended laying a charge of arson against his granddaughter - but only to make members of the community aware of the dangers of allowing children to play with matches.

The police have not arrested the child because she is under-age.

The Mutale municipality has given seven blankets and a tent to the family.

Rathiyaya said: "Our main request is for an RDP house because this is the rainy season and a tent won't be much protection.

"But we are grateful for the help we got from our neighbours and other members of the community."