Tony Yengeni's mother escapes fire; home gutted

Tony Yengeni attends ANC NEC meeting at Saint George Hotel in Pretoria.
Tony Yengeni attends ANC NEC meeting at Saint George Hotel in Pretoria.

Broken glass‚ smouldering debris‚ melted electrical cables and a burnt-out beige leather chair greeted the ANC’s Tony Yengeni when he arrived at his family home on Monday.

Yengeni’s bed-ridden mother‚ a nurse and an employee had to evacuate the house in Tygerhof Estate‚ Cape Town in the early hours of Monday morning‚ when a bedroom burst into flames – eventually causing the entire roof to collapse.

“My mother-in-law is fine. She is staying at a relative‚” Yengeni’s wife Lumka said.

The fire left a trail of destruction‚ destroying furniture‚ clothing and beds. Plaster had fallen off the interior walls‚ exposing bare bricks‚ and doors were burnt off their hinges.

According to City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue spokesperson Theo Layne‚ the fire broke out at 4:30am in the main bedroom. “The entire structure was severely damaged‚ as well as the contents. The fire… was extinguished by 7am‚” he said.

Layne said no injuries were reported‚ and the fire was contained to one property. Several hours after the blaze was extinguished‚ a strong smell of smoke lingered in the air.

Lumka Yengeni‚ who has asked that her mother-in-law's privacy be respected while she recovers from the ordeal‚ said Yengeni's mother was asleep when the fire started. “She has a sleep-in nurse who stays with her. There is another bedroom outside for a staff member‚” she said.

The two were able to assist Yengeni’s mother to safety.

“I was in Pretoria when I got the phone call. I flew out of Cape Town on Sunday evening at 8pm‚ and I had to fly back to Cape Town this morning‚” she said.

The house alarm was activated during the fire‚ and minutes later she got a call in Pretoria alerting her to the blaze.

When she stepped into the burnt-out remains on Monday‚ she said‚ “I had to be very fast [returning home]. I had to ensure that everybody was safe. The emergency people were prompt in making sure that everyone on the property was safe. I am very thankful for that.”

Now the family have the task of picking up the pieces of what remains after the blaze. “What you see is what we have left. The clothes and furniture‚ everything is gone. I am still in shock. I am not one to hold onto such things. The important thing is that everyone was able to get out in time‚” she said.

Tony Yengeni‚ an ANC veteran and former party chief whip‚ was found guilty of fraud in 2003 in a case linked to South Africa’s controversial arms deal. He had failed to disclose to parliament that he obtained a 47% discount on a Mercedes-Benz SUV. He served four months of a four-year sentence.

An arrest for drunk driving in 2007‚ in which Yengeni was arrested while allegedly out drinking at midnight in contravention of his parole conditions‚ led to charges being dropped after then-Goodwood police station commander Siphiwo Hewana reportedly allowed an unknown person access to his blood sample. Hewana was later convicted of attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

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