A 39-year-old Leribe widow has accused the government of dragging its feet in compensating her for the destruction of her seven-roomed house in a fire accident caused by a faulty gas refrigerator belonging to four soldiers she had been asked to accommodate last December.
In addition to rebuilding her house, Mapoee Poee of Ha Makhoa in Leribe wants the government to compensate her for the furniture, blankets and clothes she lost when the house was gutted by fire during the early hours of 14 December 2017.
The fire was caused by a fault in the gas refrigerator belonging to four soldiers Ms Poee had been asked to accommodate by Makhoa Councilor, Thabo Kojoane.
Ms Poee said she reluctantly agreed to accommodate the four soldiers and they stayed at her house free of charge for a month.
“The four soldiers were deployed in Leribe last year during the rainy season and the councilor asked that I accommodate them during those rainy days as I had a big house and a yard big enough to accommodate their tractors and other farming equipment,” the mother of five recently told the Sunday Express.
She said she was in her smaller thatched house with her children and preparing them for school when she heard a loud explosion from the main house which was followed by a huge flame.
“The soldiers retrieved some of their bags but my children and I only escaped with clothes that we were wearing. I was in my sleeping shirt.
“The soldiers then told me that the fire was caused by a fault in their refrigerator. They said they would report the matter to their superiors so that the army would rebuild my house and compensate me for everything that I lost. I was asked to compile a list of everything that I lost and I did that.”
Ms Poee said she was increasingly losing patience with the government as she did not expect that it would take this long before her house was rebuilt and her family restored to its status before the fire incident.
She said the incident had not only left her family destitute and exposed to the biting winter cold but also left her emotionally drained as her five children blamed her for their suffering.
“I had already bought Christmas clothes for my children but they were destroyed by the fire along with their school uniforms and all our belongings. I also have nothing and I am forced to borrow clothes from the villagers each time I have an engagement.
“Our legislator (Agriculture and Food Security Minister Mahala Molapo) is fully aware of the situation and he bought a blanket for my son who was in initiation school. Last month, he sent us maize after I told him that we didn’t have any food.”
On his part, the councilor, Mr Kojoane said he was fully aware of the fire accident after he pleaded with her to accommodate the soldiers.
“It is true that I asked ‘m’e Mapoee to temporarily accommodate the soldiers at her house and I am fully aware of the tragedy that befell her as a result of my request. I reported the matter to our member of parliament and the government is working hard to address the problem. I also spoke to the soldier who was in charge of that deployment and he promised that the matter will be addressed soon,” Mr Kojoane said.
Minister Molapo told the Sunday Express that the preparations to rebuild Ms Poee’s house were at advanced stage and she had already been given M2 000 cash to buy clothes for her son’s graduation from the initiation school.
“I am surprised that she (Ms Poee) is now discussing this matter with the media because we are working towards assisting her. When government has destroyed someone’s property, there are procedures to be followed and such procedures include damage assessment, drawing up an estimated budget as well as following the proper procedure to request for the money. We have already requested for the money from the Ministry of Finance because this damage was not budgeted for.
“I don’t know why she is running to the media when we are doing all we can to assist her. She has my numbers to call me anytime there is a problem and I have never given her an impression that she can’t call me. We gave her over M2 000 for her son’s graduation and we recently gave her food,” Mr Molapo said.