A tragic fire that claimed eight lives has shocked the nation, with even President Jacob Zuma offering his condolences.
Zuma said in a message: “I am deeply saddened and shocked by this tragedy that has befallen the community of Mitchells Plain today. I wish to extend my condolences and those of the whole government to the families and relatives of the deceased during this difficult time.”
Two men and six children, the youngest two and three years old, succumbed to the blaze that engulfed the house in Macbeth Street, Eastridge, on Saturday just after 8am.
Six people survived the blaze, including dad Patrick Abrahams, 54, who heard the anguished screams of his children as he desperately scrambled around his burning home, trying to save them.
But the smoke was so thick that the retired panelbeater had to abandon attempts to save his kids.
A heartbroken Patrick lost his three youngest children Kyle, 18, Joshua, 13, and their sister Nikita, three, as well as his three grandchildren, Tamia Swartz, two, Cameron Abrahams, six, and Elmarie Abrahams, five.
The other deceased are their “foster” cousin, Arafat Madatt, 14, and Alfonso “Fonke” Swartz, 35, a security guard who worked at the Mitchells Plain Day Hospital.
Patrick’s ex-wife Verona, 52, and his daughters Shanice, 22, and 31-year-old Gloria, who is five-months pregnant, survived the ordeal.
A family friend Nawaal Erasmus, 23, and a man only known as Lance are also being treated in hospital.
Gloria lost her boyfriend Alfonso, and her three children Tamia, Cameron and Elmarie.
Neighbours who tried to rescue the family say Alfonso refused to leave his children’s side, choosing to die with them.
Police say four people died inside the house, three children passed away while being treated at the scene and Kyle died on the way to hospital.
Standing outside the burnt-out husk of his house, a deurmekaar Patrick described waking up to flames, while he slept with Nikita, Joshua, Kyle and Arafat.
“I was still half asleep, I just remember Nikita lying next to me. The neighbours beat a hole in the wall to get Kyle and my baby son.”
Neighbour Randall Julies says his daughter’s frantic screams woke him up.
He and his friend, Wayde Rezant, 22, managed to break a hole in the back wall of Patrick’s bedroom with a sledgehammer.
Another neighbour, Eben, went into the inferno and started passing bodies to him.
“But then I heard there were more people inside the house. Alfonso, he was grabbing his children, I saw him lying there and he shouted: “No, I am not gonna go nowhere.
“The flames were coming out of the room and the fire started in the kitchen.”
Patrick’s sister Noleen Momberg, 54, was on her way to the house to fetch Arafat, whom she had fostered for five years.
Patrick was woken up by tenant, Aubrian Japhta’s husband, who knocked on the door after their electricity went off.
“But by that time, there were flames already,” she says.
The couple and their three children, aged nine months, 11 and 15, weren’t harmed and their Wendy house escaped the flames.
Mitchells Plain SAPS station commander General Greg Goss tells the Daily Voice: “It was confirmed [yesterday] morning by SAPS forensic fire experts that the cause of the fire was electrical faults. No foul play is suspected.”
Mayor Patricia de Lille said the City would aid the family with food, blankets, clothing, vanity packs and building material.
“We know that nothing can ease their pain in the midst of this heartbreak, but we are attempting to assist this family in an effort to ease some of the strain,” she says.
Meanwhile, a relative of two of the children who perished in the devastating Mitchells Plain fire says she had a vision of two of them moments after they died.
Michka Simons, 18, who claims she has been able to see spirits and ghosts since she was five years old, tells Daily Voice that she had a vision of her cousins Kyle Abrahams, 18, and Arafat Madatt, 14, standing in her bedroom – after they tragically passed away.
“My baby was looking up at the ceiling and when I looked again, I saw my cousins, Arafat and Kyle,” she says.
“Arafat said: ‘Tell ma I am sorry’ and that he loves her. He looked very happy.”
The teenager was buried according to Islamic rites yesterday.
Michka says she last saw Kyle alive on Friday, when he came to wish her happy birthday.
“I don’t know if he was saying goodbye to me (in the vision),” she adds.