WATCH: DNA for veld fire victims

The Chronicle

Bongani Ndlovu, Chronicle Reporter 

MS Locardia Mupande’s eyes were bloodshot, filled with deep grief as she stared into emptiness in her one-roomed house at Rose Farm Mine in Esigodini, Matabeleland South, a day after her husband was burnt beyond recognition together with nine others by a ferocious veld fire.

Her two-year-old daughter, Melody, was smiling and giggling as on any other day, as she is obviously oblivious of the tragedy.

Deputy Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Barbara Rwodzi and her entourage were at a loss for words when they visited the scene where the 10 bodies were found.

Deputy Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Barbara Rwodzi

They saw burnt clothing such as a gumboot that had melted and was still stuck to the ground.

At the farm compound, Ms Mupande was too grief-stricken to speak after losing her husband in the fire on Monday.

When a Chronicle news crew arrived at her home, her one-roomed house was filled with relatives consoling her.

The family’s furniture had been moved outside, leaving the room oddly bare. 

Ms Mupande’s late husband, Mr Oliver Mudimba, was part of 10 people who were burnt – some beyond recognition – at Rose Farm, Lot 43 in Esigodini. The fire that also destroyed 384 hectares of land and is still spreading, is suspected to have been ignited by illegal gold miners who clear land to look for the precious metal. 

The heart-breaking loss has been the talk of the small community and the nation as lives were lost while trying to save the environment.

Ms Mupande is part of 10 families that Deputy Minister Rwodzi and Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Abednico Ncube visited yesterday afternoon.


The two Government officials paid their respects in the company of various departments such as the Civil Protection Unit (CPU), Environment Management Agency (EMA), police, Umzingwane Rural District Council and others. 

Police have since identified the victims as: Mudimba (39), Kessary Sibanda (53) of Marula in Figtree, Ian Mudimba (38), Simon Mdlongwa (39), Nelisingwane Dlamini (47) of GMB Esigodini, Luzibo Tshuma of Chiziya Malundu Village in Binga, Bafana Moyo (53) of Dimbamiwa Village in Nkayi, England Moyo (20) of Nketa 8 in Bulawayo, Thabani Mpofu (46) of Gwelutshena Village in Nkayi and Menelisi Ngwenya (20) of Mandangema Village in Nkayi.

Five of the victims were identified by their next of kin, but the others were burnt beyond recognition. DNA tests will be conducted on the yet-to-be identified five to match the bodies with relatives.

Victims of the veld fire wrapped in body bags

The late Oliver’s aunt, Ms Nolia Mudimba said the family is still in shock following the tragic death.

“We still can’t believe it, I can’t believe it, we are at a loss for words. Oliver was a breadwinner and now his two young children and wife have nowhere to turn to. We don’t know what we shall do to support the family,” said Ms Mudimba.

She appealed to Government and well-wishers to provide at least school fees for the children.

The deceased’s sister, Ms Peshi Siakekho, said the late Mr Mudimba will be sorely missed as he supported not only her, but their mother and siblings in Binga.

“He was a hardworking breadwinner and provided for not only his family, but also, mine and for our mother in Binga. Now that he has died so tragically, as a family we don’t know what will become of us,” said Ms Siakekho.

The family of another victim of the horrific inferno, Mr Kessary Sibanda, travelled from Figtree upon hearing that he had died.

His sister, Ms Khesiwe Sibanda, could not utter any word as she was too overcome with grief. 

In the morning, Deputy Minister Rwodzi and Minister Ncube met various Government departments to map a way forward.

The meeting was held at the District Development Coordinator’s office in Esigodini.

Deputy Minister Rwodzi described the 10 victims as environmental heroes. 

“We shouldn’t at any given point lose lives whilst trying to save other lives. As a ministry we are going to tighten our laws. We always go through the difficulties of veld fires, but we never thought, that these fires would take 10 lives at one go,” said Deputy Minister. 

 “It’s a dark cloud today, that is hovering over the environmental sector and the country at large, following the tragedy and tragic demise of 10 environmental heroes as we are calling them today. They are heroes because they had availed to take out the fire to save the environment and save other people’s lives, crops and animals.”

Deputy Minister Rwodzi said there has been a 58 percent increase in veld fires this year and an increase in deaths.

“Last year, there were 3 400 fires, meaning that those started around the country, we count them. But this year, from July to date, there have been 5 300 fires so far and each fire is averagely burning 230 hectares. This is a total of 1.2 million hectares and the season has not ended. Last year we lost 784 700 hectares between July and November,” said Deputy Minister Rwodzi.

Deputy Minister Rwodzi and Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Abednico Ncube

She said it is the duty of various Government arms to investigate and bring those who are responsible for starting such fires to book.

“It is our duty to investigate and find out who are the culprits that caused this and other veld fires. If they are caught, we shall know if the fire was caused because of illegal activities. The law should take its course,” said Deputy Minister Rwodzi.

She said the tragedy could also be attributed to the devastating effects of climate change.

– Follow on Twitter @bonganinkunzi

Article Source: The Chronicle

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