Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
A 42-year-old Gweru man allegedly locked his wife, his three-year-old daughter, two stepsons and three relatives in their house before petrol-bombing the bedroom in a foiled bid to burn them following a domestic dispute.
The man who also torched one of the family vehicles, had before the latest incident attempted to commit suicide by drinking poison.
Darlington Miti (42) who is said to be suicidal, fled after bombing the family house in Heritage Park in Gweru early Thursday morning but has since handed himself over to the police.
The family’s neighbours quickly responded to the distress calls and managed to put out the fire before it spread to other rooms.
The other property burnt besides the car, includes a bed, blankets and clothes all with a combined value of US$8 000.
Midlands provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Emmanuel Mahoko confirmed the incident.
He said all the family members escaped unhurt.
“Police are investigating an attempted murder case where a 42-year-old man set on fire a house in which seven people, including his wife, were sleeping following a domestic dispute. The incident occurred on Thursday at about 2am at the family house in Heritage Park suburb,” said Insp Mahoko.
He said Miti was now in police custody after surrendering himself to the police.
Ins Mahoko said Miti’s wife, Ms Chipo Mafunda, her two children from a previous marriage, her three-year-old daughter with Miti and three relatives were sleeping in the house when Miti torched the house.
“It is alleged the complainant Chipo Mafunda aged 42 has twin sons from her previous marriage aged 23 while Miti also has a son from his previous marriage aged 21. Miti and his wife were staying with their stepchildren during their nine-year-old marriage. The misunderstanding arose after the wife asked her stepson to move out and stay with his mother,” said Insp Mahoko.
He said this did not go down well with Miti who is said to have taken his son to an unknown place.
Insp Mahoko said Ms Mafunda was awakened by Miti who was smashing window panes to their bedroom and thereafter poured petrol into the room before setting it on fire.
Miti, Insp Mahoko said, then torched the car belonging to his wife which was parked outside the house.
When a Chronicle news crew visited the house yesterday, Ms Mafunda and other family members were busy cleaning the house while electricians were rewiring the house.
In an interview, Ms Mafunda said they were lucky to be alive after the arson attack.
She said her husband was suicidal.
“We have been having problems and recently he drank poison and we rushed him to hospital where he spent two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
He was about to recover but still on medication,” she said.
Ms Mafunda said trouble started when Miti lost his job and ventured into mining without success.
She said as a result he has been failing to support the family and started accusing her of infidelity since she had taken it upon herself to provide for the family.
“He has for a long time been threatening to kill me and the kids while accusing me of infidelity but I would always ask him to provide evidence which he has failed.
He is just insecure because I have become the breadwinner for the family,” she said.
On the day of the arson attack, Ms Mafunda said Miti allegedly came home and accused her of having an extra-marital affair.
She said on Wednesday evening he left home without saying where he was going only to come back home at around 2AM the following morning with some petrol.
“He smashed our bedroom windows before sprinkling petrol into the room and setting the room on fire.
I managed to rescue our three-year-old daughter who was sleeping in the bedroom,” said Ms Mafunda.
She said neighbours responded quickly to their distress calls and managed to put out the fire before it spread to other rooms.