The unsung Beitbridge heroine Lillian Chindende standing in front of the gutted house
By Rex Mphisa
A PREVIOUSLY unknown Beitbridge woman has, overnight, become a heroine within her neighbourhood, after she risked her life to save a family that was certain to perish in an inferno in the wee hours of yesterday in Dulivhadzimo high-density suburb.
Lillian Chindende (47), who has no access to newspapers and might not even read this story, may not even get a cent for her bravery.
Yet, she is overjoyed and content with having selflessly hauled out a man, his wife and two children who, by now, could have been consumed by a raging fire that razed down a modern house, a block away from her two-roomed apartment.
With her child Tichaona Mthombeni, now hospitalised after he inhaled smoke and Bonani Muleya, Chindende, they scaled a perimeter fence to enter the yard where they used axes to break doors and burglar bars to rescue the trapped family.
“We broke into three empty rooms before reaching the third, where the man was no longer responding, perhaps because he was failing to breathe. At first, he could answer, but when we reached him he was quiet. As soon as we pulled him out, he passed out,” said Chindende.
“I received the first child and put it to safety. The man gave us the second child and then his wife came out before we defied the flames to haul out the man, who was now almost motionless. Soon after, the house exploded into flames,” she added.
Chindende said she held the man by the neck and dragged him to safety, telling him not to mind the skirt he was wearing.
“He was putting on a skirt or is it a robe, and I told him to forget that and think about his life. Thus could have been a sad day, but we pulled out four lives and it makes me see my purpose for being alive. I am happy.
“I was woken by noise of something exploding and went out to investigate. I saw the flame in the front part of the house. I woke up my son, who came out in his underwear and I told him not to mind. We scaled the durawall (perimeter wall) and called people inside because two girls from the same house were already outside, signalling there were people inside,” she said.
What Chindende initially thought was burglary was the fire razing a house belonging to former Premier League team, Border Strikers chairperson Mandela “Combat” Moyo. He was renting it out to two families.
Moyo said everything in the house was destroyed, but with some luck, no life was lost.
“We found the house completely destroyed. Nothing was salvaged. We are happy there was no loss of human life,” Moyo said.
He was disturbed that the Beitbridge Municipality Fire Brigade was blocked by two axe-wielding men, who chased away the fire crew.
Beitbridge chief fire officer George Maseko said his crew arrived before the house was completely engulfed, but failed to douse the inferno as they were obstructed.
“I later instructed them to seek police escort and by the time we arrived, we could not save anything. I believe someone has been arrested in connection with obstruction of our fire crew,” Maseko said.
“We were also let down by the distance from where we fetched water. We do not have strategic hydrants and if that is not corrected, we will be very ineffective. The municipality has to establish more hydrants,” he addedo.
Beitbridge deputy mayor Munyaradzi Chitsunge concurred, saying the lack of strategic hydrants was a let-down and this would continue to affect fire-fighting efforts in the border town.
“We have to invest in that direction. We have had some serious fires and many properties that have been lost to fires because we don’t have water points to draw from. We have to look at that,” said Chitsunge, who also attended the fire.
Chitsunge said his local authority will ensure hydrants are installed during their massive water reticulation project expected to benefit close to 7 000 households which previously had no water.
Beitbridge fires have become a source of major concern, and most are suspected to be a result of fuels sold as people try to eke a living.
This year alone, more than three houses have been destroyed by fires in the border town, which has also lost three State warehouses to yet unexplained fires.
The Department of Customs and Excise has refused to shed light on the causes of fires that have destroyed goods worth millions of dollars.