Relatives of four family members who burnt to death while sleeping in their shack in Bloekombos believe the corrugated iron structure was deliberately doused with petrol and set alight.
Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk confirmed four murder dockets were opened for investigation after the police’s K9 unit indicated that flammables were used on the shack’s front door.
“After forensic samples were collected for analysis, four charges of murder were registered at the Kraaifontein police station. The investigation continues,” said Van Wyk.
Ncumisa Ndesi, 30, her sister Thamara, 10, their niece Lisa, 10, and nephew Qhama, 5, were trapped in the flaming shack in the early hours of Sunday.
Neighbour, Akhona Mankayi said their shrill screams woke her from a “deep sleep” at 5am.
“I opened my front door and saw the fire engulf the shack. I could clearly hear Ncumisa and Qhama screaming for help,” said Mankayi, “and then all of a sudden, everything went so quiet.”
Residents rushed to the burning shack and tried to open the locked door.
“Then we started to pour buckets of water on the fire,” said Mankayi.
“It was too late when we kicked down the doors,” Mankayi said, while shaking her head in disbelief.
She said the City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Services arrived after residents managed to put out the flames. “When the smoke subsided, we saw two bodies lying in a position where it looked like they were trying to get away from the flames. Qhama, the baby, was on the floor near to the door looking like he was crawling to reach it,” she said.
Family members said they were relieved that Ncumisa’s 11-year-old daughter, Athule, was with her father in Wallacedene at the time of the fire.
Ncumisa had been babysitting her sister, niece and nephew.
Ncumisa’s landlord and uncle, Landile Nthela, said the girls had been living on his property for two years. He was in shock that “something like this can happen”.
All that was left of the shack was burnt and bent corrugated iron and soot.
Residents had cleared away the rubble and piled it in a corner – out of reach of the children who played nearby.
Lisa and Qhama’s mother, Neziswa, 25, was visibly shaken when the Cape Argus spoke to her at the local police station.
On the night of the incident, Neziswa was with her boyfriend, several metres away from the shack.
She said earlier that night, her brother told her about a suspicious-looking Quantum taxi parked outside. Moments later, the shack went up in flames.
“The fire started outside the shack. We suspect that someone poured petrol around the shack and set it alight. We can see a pattern on the ground where we think the person, or people, poured the petrol. The family is still confused about the incident,” Neziswa said.
She said it was unclear whether the suspected arson attack was carried out out of revenge.
Neziswa ran to the shack and became hysterical when she realised four of her relatives were trapped inside.
She said the police’s forensics team combed the scene before the bodies were taken to the morgue.