Marvelous Moyo Gwanda Correspondent
A SERIES of mysterious fires that start from thin air have burnt down a homestead and forced a family from Gwanda in Matabeleland South to flee. The nine-member family is now living at an open space away from their home after the fire incidents. The Nkomo family of Tabi Line in Magaya village, Ward 17 yesterday told The Chronicle how the inexplicable fires have hounded them since October last year.
A police officer reportedly ran for dear life when one of the fires started in his presence last week. The officer, the family said, had come to take a statement as police suspected arson. Philemon Nkomo, the head of the family, whose hands were burnt as he tried to douse flames from one of the fires, said he had been traumatised by the infernos that reduced his four-hut-homestead to ashes.
“I’ve not slept a wink in the last two weeks,” he said. The troubled family has built a one roomed hut where they now huddle for the nights and a makeshift shed for the few belongings they managed to salvage from the fires.
Nkomo said the fires would start during the day. “Our property started catching fire mysteriously last year around October. Our bedroom hut was reduced to ashes while we were away but we thought it was just an accident. Things worsened this year when the fires resurfaced in August and started burning things almost on a daily basis. As you can see, our homestead was set alight but we don’t know the real cause of all this. The last fire occurred two days ago. We are now living in fear,” he said.
Nkomo said all his clothing was burnt down including R7,000 he was given by his son who is based in the neighbouring South Africa. A bewildered looking Nkomo said after the homestead burnt down, the family moved and stayed under a big tree nearby but the strange fire followed them and consumed the plastic shacks they had set up.
He said the family moved to a new location where they have been staying for about two weeks but the baffling fires have worsened. “We now prefer sleeping in the open because we fear that if we sleep in a house we might be burnt to death. I no longer sleep because I will be guarding my family. I wronged no one but I suspect someone has a hand on it. Nxa ngilecala lomuntu kangitshele kulokuthi angibulalele abantwabami kanje (If I wronged anyone, let them please come forward instead of plotting to kill my children).
“I have been to prophets and inyangas to no avail. I don’t know what else to do,” Nkomo said. His left hand was seriously burnt as he fought the fire last week while his wife also sustained minor injuries. The family, said Nkomo, no longer has food as all was set ablaze while even containers with water were burnt up.
Nkomo’s wife, Emily Dube, said the environment was not friendly for her young children and her 18 year old pregnant daughter who has fainted on several times because of the shock she has been through due to the tragic incidents. Their youngest child is two years old.
“Today we haven’t eaten anything and we don’t know if we will find anything to eat. I’m worried sick for my children,” she said, with tears running down her cheeks. “We are now treated like outcasts in this village because no one even bothers to come and check on us,” she said.
Nkomo and his wife said they suspected that Dube’s step father, Maphakela Nyathi had a hand in the mysterious fires. Nyathi, who lives about a kilometre away from Nkomo’s family, said he knew nothing about the odd fires. “We have had our misunderstandings but my hands are clean,” he said.
Villagers in the area said they were shocked with the incidents and were afraid to assist the Nkomo family. They said they suspected the “haunted family” could have wronged someone and the mysterious fires were some form of revenge. “We feel pity for the children but we fear that if we intervene, the terrible fires might end up spreading to our homes. We have tried asking the family about the issue but failed to get any explanation,” said a neighbour Altabel Ndlovu.
Said Jesper Ngwenya:
“We have never seen such a thing before but in other cultures they call it ngozi (avenging spirits). In our Ndebele culture we have never seen such.” The villagers said they believed the family knew the root of the problem but was hiding it.
The councillor of the area, Ephraim Nyathi said: “We are now approaching the rainy season and people are afraid to assist the Nkomo family. What will happen to them when it starts raining?” “If there is anyone with knowledge of solving such matters, we appeal for their assistance so that they help that family,” he said adding that the news crew was lucky not to see the “supernatural” fire which usually start whenever people visited Nkomo’s homestead.