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Sisters charged with children's fire deaths cannot afford R5k bail

An assessment will be made to determine if they are suitable to be considered for correctional supervision

Three boys and two girls aged between one and seven were allegedly left alone in a shack that caught fire. Stock photo.
Three boys and two girls aged between one and seven were allegedly left alone in a shack that caught fire. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/jteivans

Two sisters from the Itireleng informal settlement near Laudium, southwest of central Pretoria, who are facing five counts of culpable homicide and child neglect, were remanded on Tuesday as they were unable to pay bail under discussion in court.

The case was postponed to Friday for an assessment on whether they  are suitable candidates to be considered for release on correctional supervision, which does not carry a financial cost.

Lindiwe Machaka, 39, is the grandmother to two of the children, one aged less than a year and another aged two. Zanele Machaka, 37, is the mother of the three other children.

When they appeared on Tuesday in the Atteridgeville magistrate’s court, the National Prosecuting Authority did not oppose bail. 

When magistrate Annita Johnson considered bail of R5,000, the women through their lawyer, attorney Vuyisile Selamela, said they couldn't afford it. They countered with a request for bail of R500. Their lawyer had initially asked for them to be released on a warning.

Johnson said she could not grant bail of R500 because of the seriousness of the charge. They remain in custody until their next appearance.

It is alleged that on August 27, the women locked five children inside their shack and went to a nearby tavern. The shack caught fire and all the children died. The women were arrested at the tavern the same day.

Speaking outside court, family member Johanna Masongwane said she was mourning the loss of the children. “My heart is still in pain, I can't even speak.”

The father of three of the children, Johannes Masongwane, said: “I have been hurt because what I had, and thought I was going to live with in my life, is no longer there.”

He felt the sisters should be allowed to attend the children's burials, then “after the funeral, they can go back to jail” for trial.


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