SAD SCENES: Mother and son burnt to ashes as fire guts house


A phone call on an early Tuesday morning on April 16 shattered Mrs Simangele Sibanda’s world.

A neighbour informed her that her mother’s bedroom had been ravaged by a fire the night before. The news struck a devastating blow — she knew instantly that her elderly mother and physically challenged brother couldn’t have escaped the blaze.

The late Mrs Enna Ncube (68) lived with her middle-aged son, Mr Nhlanhla Ncube, at their homestead in Thandabantu Village, Avoca, in Matabeleland South. Nhlanhla, who was completely reliant on his mother for daily care, slept in a separate bed.

“I got a phone call from a neighbour informing me that he had observed smoke billowing from my mother’s homestead and when he went to check out what could be wrong, he found the bedroom burnt and in ruins. It had been burnt so badly that the roof had caved in. He ran to inform the village head and together they mobilised some villagers and went back to check what had really happened.

“When I got that phone call, I immediately knew something bad had happened to my mother and younger brother. My mother was still a healthy woman while my brother was disabled, but I knew there was no way they could have escaped a fire that burnt down the whole bedroom,” Mrs Sibanda told the Chronicle at her mother’s homestead on Friday afternoon.

Four days after the fire swept through their homestead, Mrs Ncube and her son, Nhlanhla were laid to rest at the family cemetery, forever bound to the place where the tragedy unfolded. The flames were so fierce that their bodies were unrecognisable.

More than two weeks have passed since the fire plunged the Ncube family into mourning, but Mrs Sibanda and her siblings are still grappling with unanswered questions. A distance of one kilometre separates them from their mother’s homestead, but the emotional void feels vast. The fire’s origin remains a perplexing mystery, a constant source of torment for the grieving family.

They scoff at the possibility of an accidental fire. Mrs Ncube, a woman of sound mind and body, had been her son’s devoted caretaker since his birth.

“She cooked in the kitchen hut so there was no way a fire could have been lit in her bedroom.

“She was very cautious about leaving a candle on before sleeping so we wonder where the fire came from. We are still left with more questions than answers,” she said.

Mrs Sibanda’s sister, Ms Celani Ncube, pointed to a chilling detail: a piece of wire found tied around the bedroom door handle, raising the family’s suspicion of foul play.

“Our mother locked the door from the inside before sleeping so what was a piece of wire tied from the outside doing on the door.

“Everything else was burnt to ashes, but the door remained intact because it’s a metal door and that’s how we discovered the piece of wire on the handle. I believe my mother and brother were murdered before the bedroom was set on fire,” said Ms Ncube.

Further fuelling their suspicions, neighbours reportedly observed two sets of shoe prints leading to the burnt bedroom and away from the property.

“Whose footprints were they? Villagers here know that my mother and brother went to bed early every night so who would visit them at night? As a family we demand answers,” she said.

Village head, Mr Thembelani Moyo, said the community was still shocked by the incident.

“Gogo Ncube was liked in the community and we are shocked that she and her son lost their lives in such a horrifying manner,” said Mr Moyo.

The Matabeleland South acting police spokesperson confirmed that they had received a report on the death of the two.

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