Thokozile Sola shows the bullet wound (left) and (top right) burns she sustained

Sukulwenkosi Dube Plumtree Correspondent
A GUNMAN opened fire on a Bulilima family, killing a 22-year-old woman and wounding her grandmother, 60, shortly after midnight on Wednesday.The mystery shooter then torched two homesteads in Masendu Village before disappearing into the night. Plumtree police have launched an investigation.

Thokozile Sola survived the attack after being shot on her right arm, but her granddaughter Gugulethu Ndlovu died from a single shot in the chest while fleeing from a burning hut.

Sola, speaking from her hospital bed at Plumtree District Hospital, said five of her other grandchildren aged 12, 10, five, two and one, escaped unhurt when the bedroom hut they were sleeping in was consumed by fire.

Sola, who was surrounded by her family, said she could not think of any possible reason why they had been targeted.

“I was sleeping in my bedroom with my six grandchildren when I suddenly woke up and found the hut roof burning,” said Sola.
“While trying to figure out what was happening, I heard a sound of gunfire coming from outside. It was then that I saw a man standing at the door pointing his gun at us.”

The old woman said she could not make out who the assailant was as “there was a lot of smoke in the house and the family was suffocating”.

She said the attacker shot her on the right arm before disappearing into the darkness.

“My grandchildren were terrified and crowded around me. I suspected the man was in the company of other people as I heard voices coming from outside,” Sola went on.

“At that time, Gugulethu tried to escape but was shot just outside the door and fell down.”

Seeing Gugulethu down, Sola said she could not remain in the burning house anymore.

“I knew I had to act as we could not remain hidden in a burning hut. I picked up the youngest child and others followed as we bolted out and fled,” she said.

“I was in great pain and bleeding but I had to lead my grandchildren out of the house. I was confused and scared but what I recall is that on my way out, I saw another hut on fire.

“The assailants had gone and I saw Gugu lying still and I knew she was dead.”

Sola said she fled from her home with minor burns only to realise that her assailants had gone to her neighbouring cousin’s homestead, where they torched a bedroom hut.

“They fastened the door to the bedroom from outside using a wire before setting it on fire. My cousin and her husband were inside and they broke the door in order to escape,” she said.

Chief Masendu, the local traditional leader, said: “This is a terrible thing to have ever happened in my area. Two homesteads, one belonging to Ndebele, and the other to the Sola family, were attacked.

“It’s still unclear as to who did this, but we assume it is a member of the family. This person deliberately attacked two homesteads belonging to the same family. We’re puzzled about the intention. As we speak, people are shoscked and scared because these criminals are still at large.”

Chief Masendu’s secretary, Freeman Dube, said villagers reported that they saw a vehicle leaving the scene after hearing the victims’ screams.

He said it remains unclear how many people carried out the “evil” mission, but said suspicion was that it was more than one person judging by the footprints observed at the crime scene.

Last night, Plumtree police said they were pursuing several leads, but no arrests had been made.

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