Abahlali leader blames government for baby’s death

Sbu Zikode says that Khwezi Mlingo would have survived if Cato Manor’s shacks had water and electricity

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Photo of burnt shack
The charred remains of the shack in which baby Khwezi Mlingo died on Monday. Photo: Musa Binda

Sbu Zikode, president of Abahlali BaseMjondolo, blamed the death of baby Khwezi Mlingo on government during her memorial service at eNkanini Informal Settlement in Cato Manor on Friday.

Khwezi was killed in a shack fire, caused by a candle falling, on Monday.

Zikode said the two-year-old would not have been killed if government ensured that shack dwellers were provided with electricity. He also said that if shack dwellers had a proper water supply, the fire could have been put out quickly, saving Mlingo’s life.

Zikode noted that no officials from eThekwini Municipality attended the memorial. He said that officials did come to the scene of Khwezi’s death on Wednesday but expressed scepticism that any progress would come from it. “They didn’t leave anything. It should sink in Bahlali [shack dwellers] that in this country we’re on our own.”

He warned shack dwellers to be extra careful during winter season. He said winter is the period where fires occur because of increased use of candles and paraffin.

Neighbour Mlungisi Mokoena, who witnessed Khwezi’s shack burn, said he smelt burning while he was inside his own shack. He said he got up and noticed that his neighbour’s shack was on fire. Khwezi was home with two young siblings.

Mokoena said he had called on neighbours to help put out the fire. They then noticed that Khwezi was nowhere to be seen.

“I asked the neighbours: ‘Where is the toddler?’ They showed me Khwezi’s older siblings. With tears running down my face I told them that there was a third child, a small one, and not seeing her outside the burning shack meant one thing, that she was inside the shack that was already up in flames,” said Mokoena.

Khwezi’s grandmother, Nonkumbulo Mlingo, said the pain the family was going through is untold. She said she only had one daughter, Mbali — Khwezi’s mother — and when Khwezi was born she was grateful to be blessed with a second “daughter”.

EThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela told GroundUp that he was going to check with the Disaster Management unit to find out how their team handled the visit to the scene.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele confirmed that Cato Manor police are investigating the incident.

TOPICS:  Housing

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