Most burn victims treated in Limpopo facility were men injured in intimate partner violence

A plastic surgeon based in Limpopo said the majority of patients he had treated for burn wounds sustained their injuries as a result of intimate partner violence.
A plastic surgeon based in Limpopo said the majority of patients he had treated for burn wounds sustained their injuries as a result of intimate partner violence.
Image: Phasut Waraphisit /

A Limpopo-based plastic surgeon says most patients admitted for burn treatment sustained their injuries from intimate partner violence and are men.

Professor Salathiel Mzezewa, who is the head of plastic surgery at the Mankweng Complex in Polokwane, based his findings on 38 treatments he administered at his facility between January 2019 to August 2020.

The report was received by Limpopo health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba.

Commenting on the report, Ramathuba said: “The leading burn injuries, at 55,26%, were as a result of intimate partner-related violence. This is another indication and confirmation that Limpopo is one of those leading provinces in terms of gender-based violence (GBV).”

The report also revealed that almost a third (29%) of deaths following admission as a result of burn wounds were related to religious and traditional beliefs. These were the highest in terms of case fatality.

Mzezewa said in the past 19 months, they admitted 22 male patients and 16 female patients. Twenty-one of these patients were treated for injuries sustained as a result of intimate partner violence.

Five of the injuries were sustained during religious and traditional belief ceremonies, three had been self-inflicted, one was the result of a mob assault, two were sustained during a robbery, and three were sustained during alcohol-related conflicts.

Mzezewa said he had treated more men (11) for intimate partner-related burns than women.

Five of his patients were women who had been injured by their male partners, and five were cases of “female to female violence” related to an intimate partner.

Of the 38 patients he treated over the past 19 months, eleven died.

“When the assailant was a male partner, the mortality rate was high. Three female patients died after being set alight by their male partners. The only male who died from intimate partner-related violence was set alight by his wife’s boyfriend,” the report noted.

Mzezewa said he had treated a 29-year-old woman who was 34 weeks pregnant.

She had been set alight by the wife of her boyfriend after the woman found out that her husband had impregnated his lover.

Mzezewa said on the second day of her admission, the victim went into premature labour and gave birth to a healthy baby.

“Mortality was highest among those admitted following religious and traditional beliefs burns. The mortality was 29%,” the report read.

In one of these cases, Mzezewa said he had treated a 24-year-old woman who was burnt with petrol by a traditional healer who claimed to be treating her herpes simplex. She sustained burns to 68% of her body and died on the day of admission.

Two patients, who were in need of mental health care, had consulted traditional healers and were burnt by steam used as a form of treatment for their psychiatric conditions.

“Unfortunately, one of them died,” read Mzezewa’s report.

Mzezewa reported that one of the patients treated for self-inflicted burns was a prisoner.

“A 22-year-old male prisoner who was trying to cause a commotion to escape from prison, together with two fellow inmates, used methylated spirits to set a mattress on fire. The other two prisoners died on the scene. He survived with 36% burns to his body and inhalation injury.”

Ramathuba hailed the report as beneficial for her department, saying it will guide not only the department of health's planning, but also all other social cluster departments.

The report recommended:

  • Anger management by a multidisciplinary team comprising psychologists and social workers;
  • Prosecution of assailants;
  • Awareness campaigns against non-accidental burns.

“Research must not only be conducted for academic purposes, but also it is critical to conduct studies that help government and society to eradicate all our social ills,” said Ramathuba.


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