Andile Tshuma, Sunday News Correspondent
A couple was burnt to death on Friday night after a hut they were sleeping in caught fire in Bhafodi, Nyamandlovu, Matabeleland North province.
The deceased were identified as Adelaide Tshuma (48) and her husband, only identified as Sibanda, whose first name and age could not be immediately obtained.
Sources who spoke to Sunday News feared that the couple was heavily intoxicated and could therefore not escape from the fire after they had spent the afternoon consuming alcoholic beverages.
Police could not immediately comment on the matter, but Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo described the incident as tragic and called for communities to be vigilant and careful with fires.
“This is a very unfortunate incident. It is a very painful way to die and also very painful to those left behind as they will have some horrendous memories left with them behind.
“I have called the District Coordinating Committee (DCC) to ensure that word reaches police swiftly and the bodies are collected because this is very traumatic for the community that has witnessed it,” said the Minister in a telephone interview.
Zanu-PF Umguza DCC chairman Cde Paul Mthimkhulu said he had been in communication with police and said the family had been granted permission to bury the deceased.
“Police came to attend the scene and have since given the family clearance to bury their loved ones.
“There was no need for a post mortem as the bodies were burnt beyond recognition so the families are busy with burial preparations as I speak,” he said.
He said there were signs that the victims attempted to flee but may have choked from the smoke as their bodies were found crouched near the door of their bedroom hut.
“We hear that these people had been to a drinking spot where they spent the day.
“However, this comes at a time when we are under lockdown and such activities are illegal. We call upon communities to adhere to lockdown restrictions and ensure that we fight Covid-19 together,” he said.
Some community members said they had earlier during the day shared drinks with the late Sibanda.
Mr Thembani Ndlovu, a local villager said, “We were drinking with Sibanda heavily and his wife drinks too. I think they may have both passed out and could therefore not rush out of their hut when the fire started.”
Other villagers said when they saw the fire and rushed to the scene, it was too late to save the victims or their property.
A neighbour to the deceased who identified himself as Mr Mbiseleni Ndlovu said the hut was up in flames when he and other neighbours attempted to save the deceased.
“I had to rush there with my son at night after we heard screams and shouts from my neighbour’s homestead calling us to go to Mdawini’s (Sibanda) homestead.
“I quickly dressed up and woke my son up and we headed there but the flames were just too much and unfortunately, we discovered that they had already consumed Mdawini and his wife and only charred remains of their bodies could be salvaged from the fire,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Another villager, Mrs Siphiwe Nkomo said she was worried about the welfare of the children left behind.
“I have never seen such a tragedy in my life. It is not a sight you may want to behold, I wish I could unsee it but unfortunately it is impossible. What will become of these children who have been orphaned so painfully?” lamented Mrs Nkomo.
The couple is survived by four children.