It had been a very hot day and my friends and I were walking back from school kicking stones, accumulating more dust on our shoes. Koketso said she could hear people shouting; I couldn’t hear anything, my friend is known to have an overactive imagination. It helped her at school, but in reality it was a nuisance because you couldn’t believe anything she said.

Koketso said, “Listen harder.”

We both laughed at her. Tshiamo and I were used to her by now but then she looked up and said look at all that smoke. I could also see it and that’s when we noticed people running. I started panicking and pulled Tshiamo and Koketso by the arms to urge them to run. As we got closer I could hear people screaming, it sounded horrible and I threw my bag as I felt it was weighing me down.

The gate was locked, people had jumped over it as I saw our neighbour with hoses and other people with buckets filled with water or sand. The screams coming from the house were unbearable.

Three huge men were coming from the direction of our tuckshop holding my father‘s arms. I ran to him with tears in my eyes, “Dad…dad our house is on fire. Linki and Gomolemo are screaming inside.”

He just looked at me and walked passed me with the men holding tightly to him. I guess I should have seen that something was wrong at that moment, but the screams were so loud all I could think was ‘Help help’, and who better to help than my father.

I got ready to look for a bucket but even as I did I could hear the screams dying down. Koketso‘s mother shouted at Koketso to take me to their house. I tried to resist but they wouldn‘t let me.

I sat with my friends, a thousand thoughts going through my mind. I said no to offers of tea, juice or water. I felt defeated. The tears ran down my face and I could see nobody knew what to say to me. Linki was only seven months old and Gomolemo was only four. I kept wondering how the fire could have started and why my father was so quiet. He was probably shocked, he was probably far away when they brought him to come see that his house was burning.

We lived in a thre- roomed shack. Gomolemo and I shared a room. The kitchen and the living room were in the same room. My father didn‘t speak much and when he did it was when we had done something wrong or to help me with homework. He had been home often these past three months. He and my mother had been fighting more and more, everything always seemed to be wrong; from the children crying to the food having too much or too little salt — he just was unhappy with everything.

My mother was a good woman who always took care of us and told us very lovely stories. She had been stressed as well and had become more and more quiet. Our grandparents had told our mother to come back home because she was always falling and getting broken arms or suddenly having allergies that left her face swollen. She had all these accidents since I was young and I had kind of gotten used to it, but my grandparents seemed to think they would end if she went back to her home.

Koketso‘s mother came back home that night, her clothes covered with ash as she told me that the woman accompanying her was a social worker. I was told how our house had burned down with my mother and sisters inside and that my father had also died; he had been killed by the angry mob after he had fled. He had poured gasoline around the house and set it alight. The mob put a tyre around his neck, poured the remaining petrol on him and set him alight.


Tell us: What advice would you give to someone who has been through so much trauma?