Is the mother to blame if her toddlers burn to death?

By Anita Dangazele

At the funeral on Tuesday of the two toddlers who burnt to death a week ago in Sibangweni Location in Mthatha, the tragic tale of their mother’s upbringing left many questioning whether to blame her for leaving them in the house with their uncle while she went out with friends. 

Anelisa Makeleni, the 23-year-old pregnant mother of nine-year-old Bekithemba, who risked his life trying to save his siblings, Alive, 3, and Zenakhe, 2, who died in the fire last week, had allegedly left the children sleeping.

Eastern Cape children’s rights activist Petros Majola said although it may be easy for people to say the mother must be arrested for child neglect, they must consider her deprived social circumstances.

“She’s 23 with a nine-year-old boy. Now, you begin to ask yourself how old she was when she gave birth to the nine-year-old. And apart from the two that died in the fire, she’s also pregnant with a fourth one,” he said. 

Anelisa’s mother moved to KwaZulu-Natal and left her and her brother to fend for themselves when Anelisa was pregnant with her first child. Majola said this indicated the young mother’s need for family support.

She was unemployed and relied on the grants she received for child support to survive.

Eastern Cape Education MEC Fundile Gade was among those who attended the funeral of the two toddlers.

Gade said the provincial education department would provide Bekithemba with psychosocial and academic support to ensure his good school progress.

“For us as the education sector, this is unfortunate… beyond just providing psychosocial services, we need support academically for him and the entire school because once one kid is affected, the entire peer group is affected. Even teachers are disorientated,” Gade said.

According to the children’s uncle, Xolani Makeleni, who was sleeping in another room in the house when the fire broke out, the toddlers were buried before sunrise on Tuesday.

Pictured above: The house where two toddlers, Alive and Zenakhe Makeleni, died in a fire on 4 May.

Image source: Supplied


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