A WOMAN and her three children were killed, while property worth thousands of dollars was destroyed in two separate bizarre fire incidents that rocked Chimanimani and Mutare’s Dangamvura high-density suburb recently.
Sorrow engulfed Satiya Village in Chimanimani West on Tuesday during the burial of Mrs Betty Sumburani- Garudzo and her three-children who were burnt beyond recognition in an inferno that razed the thatched hut in which they were sleeping last Wednesday evening.
Sumburani and two of her children, Tafadzwa (15) and Norman (11) perished in the fire, while Leonard (13) later passed on at Mutare Provincial Hospital where he had been admitted.
The Chimanimani Civil Protection Committee declared the incident a disaster and funds were raised to assist.
How the fire started remains a mystery, but all hell broke loose at the burial on Tuesday as the Sumburani family pointed accusing fingers at their brother-in-law, one Nomore Garudzo.
They charged that he was responsible for the death of their daughter and children whom he had deserted to co-habit with another woman in Rusitu last year.
The family’s spokesperson, Mr Lovemore Sumburani, said: “Garudzo had abandoned his family last year and we were now taking care of our sister and nephews since January. He had been married to our sister since 1999.
However, last week she told us that Garudzo had threatened her to leave the house, saying if she resisted she would do so in a coffin. Shortly after, the fire broke and the whole family perished.”
As compensation the family demanded to be paid $3 500 failure of which they said they would not bury anyone.
The matter was only resolved after Garudzo’s workmates assured them that they would deduct $200 from his salary every month to meet their demands.
According to one Takeshure who witnessed the inferno, he said the flames were frightening.
“When I woke up I heard Mbuya Garudzo screaming for help. The thatched roof was already on fire.”
He tried to break the closed door, but it took him time. Garudzo, who did not refute any of the accusations laid against him by his in-laws, was quiet throughout the proceedings.
He refused to comment in fear of further provoking his in-laws and just said he would compensate them.
Mutare West legislator Cde Munacho Mutezo assisted with four coffins, a goat, groceries worth $100 and $70 cash for sundry expenses during the burial process.
“This is truly a disaster that has befallen our community, one that I could not just let pass by as the MP of the area. We have witnessed many funerals, but for an entire family to be wiped out in such an agonizing manner is saddening,” he said.
In Dangamvura high-density suburb, a machete-wielding man allegedly set his parent’s house on fire in a foiled bid to commit suicide as well as kill his bed-ridden aged mother.
Tofarasei Moses Katsara (35) attacked neighbours and police officers who had come to put out the raging flames as he was determined to see his mother burnt in the ensuing inferno.
The incident occurred at Number N614B around 9am on Tuesday. The marauding Tofarasei who had managed to scare away rescuers with dangerous weapons, was only subdued after Mutare Fire Brigade workers hit him with high pressure water.
He was sent flying into the air and he subsequently lost his weapons. Police officers and members of the public then man-handled him.
When the news crew visited the scene, hordes of people were still milling around, shaking their heads in disbelief.
Some women cried in agony.
Tofarasei is facing malicious damage to property and assault charges. He attacked a police officer and Joseph Mashati who sustained cuts on his face.
The suspect’s cousin, Byron Katsara, who also stays at the house, was at a loss for words to explain the gory events that occurred before him.
He said Tofarasei started exhibiting weird behaviour some weeks back.
“This is strange. Last month he attempted to commit suicide by hanging himself. He did not succeed because the rope broke. Soon he disappeared from home and went to stay in a nearby mountain. We spent four days looking for him and we finally found him. His explanations were weird. Before this episode he isolated himself from family members, including his wife and children and locked himself up in a bedroom.
“Today, he did what you see now. He lit up the house and armed himself with dangerous weapons which included a machete. He attacked anyone who dared put out the fire. When all this was taking place, his mother who is bedridden was sleeping in a bedroom which he also put on fire. He attacked everyone including police officers. He was only subdued by the Fire Brigade using the high-pressure water.”
Byron said the arson had dealt a heavy blow on the family that was already struggling to make ends meet.
“All the food we had has been burnt. We are struggling here because no one is going to work. Our grandmother’s medication has also been destroyed and we don’t know what to do now,” he said.
Tofarasei’s mother, Mrs Winnie Katsara, who escaped death by a whisker from the raging flames, was left speechless.
“It’s difficult and hard to understand what has happened. I don’t know why my own son wanted to kill me in the fire,” she said.
When interviewed at the Dangamvura Police Station, Tofarasei denied the allegations levelled against him saying it was his wife who had started the fire. He said since he lost his job as a municipal police officer in 2004, he has been abused by his wife.
“My wife is the problem. I used to work, but when I lost my job in 2004 she has been abusive. I did not cause the fire. She is the one who threw the fire at me. I was actually running away from being burnt,” he said.
When asked why he was attacking people yet he was trying to flee, Tofarasei said people were peddling lies to fix him.
“Yes, there is something troubling me, but I did not burn the house, my wife did it,” he said.
He is set to appear in court soon .