EVER Mutamba (31) never imagined that the supper she had with her four children was their last together.
Like any mother, she retired to bed hoping to see all her children the following morning.
But, alas, fate had other ideas as the night ended in tragedy.
It is October 16, and the rains marked the beginning of the summer season, an anticipated moment by communal farmers in this semi-arid area.
But for Mutamba of Wadzenenga village under Chief Nyashanu in Buhera, the rains which pounded most parts of Zimbabwe that night left her in misery.
Her children died after a bolt of lightning struck her thatched house, causing an inferno that claimed the lives of her children.
That she survived with a badly scorched leg did not hurt her compared to the deep wound she carries after the unfortunate incident.
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Her children Mavis (11), Melinda (9), Michael (4) and Hara (2) were buried side by side on the same day.
Mutamba still stares at the graveyard each day when the sun sets as she counts another day without her children.
Speaking to NewsDay Weekender recently, her voice was full of pain as she tried to hold back tears while narrating the story of losing all her children within a flash of a moment.
“I do not know how it happened because I was asleep together with my children. I woke up after feeling an extenuating pain as my leg was burnt. As I was still trying to figure out what was happening, the whole house caught fire.
“I held my little child tightly in my hands, but the other three were still sleeping. Disaster started when I could not find the door to rescue myself and the children,” she said.
Mutamba remembers that the house was engulfed in smoke, and she was immediately blinded by the fumes.
“I do not know how I managed to crawl out of the house. I screamed as I was running to my neighbour’s place. At that moment, I almost lost my memory,” she recalled.
Several people gathered at Mutamba’s homestead during that night as she cried out in despair.
Their screams and shouts increased her fears as she had hoped that the children had escaped the fire.
“My first born, Mavis, was very intelligent at school. She always promised to break the chain of poverty in our family and had a dream of flying to America one day.
“The other two were also good at school. My children always helped me to do household chores. Mavis could take care of her siblings when I was not around,” Mutamba said.
“During our spare time, I would teach my children to sing various songs from the hymn book and teach them the Word of God.
“Now that they are gone, I do not know where to start from. May God have mercy on me. I wish he could bless me with twins one of the days, but it will never be the same. I am heartbroken.”
Conrad Muchena (54), who was the first person to arrive at the scene, could not hide his pain as he narrated the events of that night.
“The house was exploding in orange flames. I could hear a child who was crying for help. I was the first to get to the scene and the situation was unbearable.
“At that time, I cast all my fears though it was not easy. The small boys who were there could not even assist as they were scared to approach the fire.
“Moments later, two other men rushed to the scene and we tried to open the door but there was an unusual force pushing it,” he said.
Muchena said the men tried chipping the walls with stones to create an opening on the other side of the house.
“The girls and women in the village rushed with buckets of water to extinguish the fire, but all the efforts were in vain. Some started pouring sand to extinguish the fire.
“We could hear the poor, hapless voices coming from inside the house as the children were choking from the smoke. They could not even help themselves,” Muchena said.
The children’s father, Happyson Hara, was pacing up and down during the interview, trying to get to grips with reality.
He had left his home the day before tragedy struck.
“I left my family in a good state, and they were all happy and even requested for the items which they wanted me to buy. Little did I know that those were the goodbyes,” he said.
“I felt like the world was falling apart and I could not believe what I heard on the call. It is the same number I used to receive good news from my family, but it turned out to be my worst enemy in three seconds.”
His children had escorted him to the bus station when he left the previous day.
“I tried to work hard for the sake of my children though things are not going well this side. I even thatched the roof of the house that caught fire before I returned to work, all in the name of doing it for my kids, but where are they now?
“I could not believe my eyes. I was devastated after seeing the four bodies lying on the ground. The worst part of it was that they were severely burnt in the fire,” Hara said.
The tragedy is also being felt throughout the whole village.
Titus Wadzenenga (75), the village head, expressed grief as he explained how the incident happened.
“I have never witnessed such an incident, even our forefathers never experienced that. What a loss and we are finished.
“The children had a bright future ahead of them and you could tell because they were very intelligent. I thought they were growing up to become parents and future leaders just like us, but it all turned to dust,” he said.
The relatives have secured another stand for the family in that same village.
Wadzenenga appealed to well-wishers around Zimbabwe to assist the family.
“Incidents like these need experts in counselling. The parents need counselling and assistance from all of us. We are also appealing to well-wishers to assist with building materials for the construction of a new home,” he said.
“The villagers and other relatives can assist, but they cannot do it alone considering the issue of cement and building sheets.”
Zimbabwe and the rest of the southern African region will this year experience the El Niño weather phenomenon with normal to below normal rains.
However, when the rains come, they are sometimes violent and accompanied by winds and lightning, posing extreme danger to humans and animals.
According to the Meteorological Services Department, deaths by lightning are under-reported by 30% in Zimbabwe.
In 2002, 10 people died on the spot, while 60 others were injured after being struck by a bolt of lightning at an apostolic shrine in Chitungwiza.
Zimbabwe entered the Guinness Book of Records in 1975 after 21 people sheltered in a hut in Mutare were killed by lightning.
According to research conducted in 1991, about 100 people died annually due to lightning strikes in Zimbabwe.
Chitungwiza-based Johane Masowe eChishanu apostolic church leader Madzibaba Simbarashe Nengomasha said there is need to conduct prayers at the homestead to deal with bad omen and avoid a recurrence of the tragedy.
But for Mutamba, it was unbearable to see the pall bearers lowering down four coffins containing the charred remains of her children.
She concluded that maybe the gods of joy have abandoned her for eternity. Newsday