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In the grip of grief

The Mukendi family still haven’t been able to bury their five-year-old son, Naby, two weeks after he died in an apartment fire that also killed another woman.

“We lost everything,” says Fabien Mukendi of the events surrounding his son’s death. “We have nothing for the burial.”

The Mukendis had been sharing the Amdenhof apartment in Voortrekker Road with another family from the DRC. The other family consisted of a couple, Florence and Baphi, and their baby, Asha. A friend, Silvie, was visiting them. Silvie died when she jumped out of the window, trying to escape the fire.

Fabien is uncertain about their surnames.

On the day of the fire the other family was keeping an eye on Naby and his brother, Winner Tambata (15), while Fabien and his wife Miphy-Mbuyi were out looking for work.

It was a neighbour who called Fabien to tell him his home was burning. He rushed to the scene, only to find out Naby had died.

His other son, Winner, had gone to buy chips at a nearby shop when the fire broke out.

Since the accident, the couple have been left with more questions than answers. They haven’t been able to talk to Florence and Baphi yet and don’t know what happened.

They’ve temporarily moved in with friends whom they know from the DRC. Miphy-Mbuyi sleeps on a mattress in front of a television. She barely moves – the grief is too overwhelming.

Fabien says Naby was a good boy who loved cartoons and his toys. “I miss him.”

The family came to South Africa from Kinshasa five years ago in search of a better future, Fabien says. Naby was born in South Africa.

Fabien worked in security for a while, but the contract recently ended, leaving him, the sole breadwinner, unemployed.

All their possessions were destroyed in the fire.

Fabien says he doesn’t know how to pay for a burial or even feed his family. He made posters asking for assistance and put them up outside the burnt apartment.

Investigators were on the scene when TygerBurger took pictures last week. The cause of the fire is still undetermined.

According to Rianna Solms, a lawyer acting on behalf of the managing agent of Amdenhof, Watchprop, the company and trustees were compliant with fire regulations, as well as the Sectional Title Schemes Act. Fire extinguishers in the building are serviced regularly, she says.

“The trustees are terribly shocked and send their condolences to the family and their loved ones.”

Solms says they are waiting on a report surrounding the cause of the fire. Once this has been received they’ll look into what suggestions can be made to tenants on how to improve their fire safety.

JP Smith, the City’s Mayco member for safety and security, confirmed that Amdenhof is not one of the buildings being investigated by the City’s Problem Building Unit.

Call Fabien on 062 958 22125 or 083 730 2741 with any offers of assistance.

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