By Nqaba Matshazi
A Harare woman has demanded compensation from Zesa, after her one-year-old baby died last month in a fire blamed on an electric power surge, a claim likely to prove a test case for the power utility.
The child’s grief-stricken mother, Linda Tapfumaneyi, also lost all her property in the blaze that gutted her lodgings in the capital’s Warren Park 1 suburb.
Last week she narrated her ordeal to The Standard, saying she was yet to come to terms with the loss of her child.
She said the fire occurred shortly after the restoration of power following load-shedding.
“My two children were sleeping in the house and I was preparing to bath,” Tapfumaneyi said. “I then realised the house was full of smoke and I shouted for help and my neighbours came to our rescue.”
Tapfumaneyi said her children were pulled out of the burning house and were rushed to a nearby clinic, which they found closed.
They were referred to Harare hospital, where she was admitted with her one year old child.
“I was in hospital for a week but my child did not make it. The doctors said he died from smoke inhalation,” she continued.
The surviving child, a four- year-old boy, suffered extensive burns on his limbs and head.
Tapfumaneyi approached the Harare Residents Trust (HRT) in the hope that she may get compensation from the power utility.
“(Our) client lost all her property in the fire and at the moment she is of no fixed abode as a result of the fire,” reads a letter written by HRT addressed to the Zesa Risk and Insurance Officer.
“Our client is seeking full recovery of her property and all the expenses which were incurred as a result of the fire.”
The letter was written early last week and they have not received a response.
To add salt to a festering wound, the City of Harare’s fire and ambulance department is demanding that Tapfumaneyi pay US$517 for their services in extinguishing the killer blaze.
“She lost all the property in the fire and by the time the fire brigade arrived the fire was off as the house had been razed to the ground,” Regina Bakuri from HRT said.
“We are asking for a waiver as there is no way she can pay, she is literally of no fixed abode.”
Tapfumaneyi said her former landlord has asked that she settle the fire brigade fees.
“The landlord said he will pay for the reconstruction of the house, but I should pay for the fire brigade services,” Tapfumaneyi, who has since found sanctuary at her uncle’s house in Hopley Farm, said.
Zesa has often been blamed for the damage of electrical goods due to electrical surges as a result of haphazard power-rationing.
Recently, a woman from Bulawayo, who had her house burnt to the ground, blamed Zesa for the inferno, while a 10-year-old Harare boy was electrocuted due to naked power cables.
Last year, a kombi conductor died while a pregnant woman was electrocuted after they fell into a trench while fighting over bus fare.
Contacted for comment last Thursday, Zesa spokesman, Fullard Gwasira asked for questions in writing, but he did not respond.
Several attempts to contact him were fruitless, as he was no longer answering his mobile phone, while text messages went unanswered.