ZIMBABWE – A woman (34) from Matabeleland North who heroically saved her three minor children from a fire that razed their bedroom hut, was burnt to death when the hut caved in on her.

A court heard the fire was started by a neighbour, Philani Maphosa (25), who was arrested after villagers tracked him to a shopping centre where he was hiding.

Cynthia Ndlovu of Plot 7, Hambakahle Plots in Inyathi and her three minor children Sylvester (13), Prisca (12) and Chantel (7) Dube were asleep when Maphosa allegedly torched their bedroom hut a fortnight ago.

Ndlovu had locked the door from inside when they went to bed and failed to locate the keys because of smoke that had engulfed the hut.

She grabbed the door and pulled it until there was a gap just big enough for her children to squeeze through, unhurt.

The court heard she failed to break down the door and was burnt to death. The three minors rushed to seek help from neighbours who arrived after the thatched roof had collapsed.

Police opened a murder probe after villagers tracked footprints to Queen’s Business Centre where they effected a citizen’s arrest on Maphosa of Exchange Village in the same area.

Maphosa was not asked to plead to murder when he appeared before magistrate Mr Collen Chiruma at Inyathi Magistrates’ court.

He was remanded in custody to Thursday next week.

Circumstances are that Ndlovu and her three children retired to bed at 8PM on September 20 before they were awakened by the fire around 3AM.

“At around 3AM when they were asleep, the now deceased heard the door being shaken from outside as if someone was trying to open it. She woke up her children and saw a light flashing towards the kitchen hut. After a short while they noticed that the bedroom hut was on fire.

“The now deceased and her children looked for the keys but could not find them. She managed to pull the bottom of the door for the kids to go out,” said the prosecutor Mr Zivanai Hlomayi.

The kids rushed to inform Ms Sibongile Ndlovu who alerted other neighbours. When the neighbours got to the scene the roof had collapsed.

In the morning villagers tracked footprints that led them to Queen’s Business Centre about 3km away where they found Maphosa. Upon searching him, villagers recovered dried meat and some clothes which he had stolen from the deceased place before torching her homestead.

A pair of shoes whose prints resembled the ones villagers tracked from Ndlovu’s homestead were recovered in Maphosa’s bag.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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