Drum English|9 July 2020

Ten years after being set alight, Thembi Maphanga is living life to the fullest

IT’S been 10 years since that fateful day when she lost her beloved daughter and she herself stood at death’s door after a fire started by her then-boyfriend.

Today, Thembi Maphanga is vibrant, happy and living her life to the fullest – something she says she owes her little girl, Kamo, who died at the age of two. She laughs and jokes when we catch up with her on this momentous anniversary of the day that changed her life.

“I’ve been great, and I’ve grown,” the 43-year-old from Middelburg in Mpumalanga tells DRUM.

“I understand life so much better now. Things are clearer and make sense.”

Thembi’s story is nothing short of inspirational and she’s helped other burn survivors come to terms with what happened to them.

She had to work through the trauma of what happened to her and Kamo.

She’ll never forget the day. She and her ex had a fight and he returned to Thembi’s home to collect his belongings.

He walked in and locked the door behind him. In his hand was a five-litre container filled with petrol.

“He started throwing petrol all over me. I screamed and fought to keep him away from me,” she recalls.

He then lit a match, setting the room alight, before jumping out the window to escape the blaze.

Thembi frantically searched the room for Kamo, but eventually had no choice but to leap out the window too.

SHE sometimes still can’t believe she survived the horrific attack that left her with 80% burns across her body.

“I was burnt to the bone,” Thembi tells us. “I was so sure I wouldn’t make it. It is just a miracle that I am still here.”

Kamo wasn’t as fortunate. She died three days later.

Thembi was in a coma at the time and couldn’t be there when her child was laid to rest.


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9 July 2020