Town offers to help pay for burial of 5 children

Glacier Nkhwashu

Glacier Nkhwashu

The Greater Tzaneen Municipality in Limpopo has committed itself to helping with the funeral of the five children who died in a fire at the weekend.

The victims died when the hut in which they were sleeping, in Nyakelang village, outside Tzaneen, caught fire on Sunday morning.

It is believed that the children's sister, Gladys Machete, 19, had gone out for the night with her boyfriend.

The young victims were asleep when the hut caught fire. The children's ages ranged from four to nine.

One of the dead children was Gladys's child. Two children belonged to her sister, who died three months ago, and the other child lived in the neighbourhood.

Nikiwe Mathebula, spokesman for the municipality, confirmed yesterday that officials had been sent to assess the situation.

Mathebula told Sowetan: "We will help the family. Mayor Othaniel Mushwana has sent his condolences to the families."

Meanwhile, when Sowetan visited the family yesterday it was obvious there was a dire need for money to bury the children. The children's grandfather, Simon Ngobeni, 50, said he was trying to come to terms with his loss, but the reality was that there was no money to bury the children.

Ngobeni works at a citrus farm and earns barely enough to sustain his family. He was with his wife, Maria Machete, 47, at the farm when they received news of the fire.

"We used to leave the children with Gladys. We never thought she could be this negligent. We are, however, pinning our hopes on police investigations to reveal the real truth," said Ngobeni.

Pensioner Mamaila Ngobeni, a fellow villager, described Gladys as a fun-loving person.

Police spokesman Superintendent Moatshe Ngoepe yesterday identified the dead children as Given, 5, Tiyani, 3, and Teanesh, 6. The others' identities were not known at the time of going to press.