City Vision

Fear of fires

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Nolizwi Jinoyi-Mzomba sitting on her wheelchair, as her aunt Nomvo Mzomba stands next to her.       PHOTO: UNATHI OBOSE
Nolizwi Jinoyi-Mzomba sitting on her wheelchair, as her aunt Nomvo Mzomba stands next to her. PHOTO: UNATHI OBOSE

With the fire season already here, a wheelchair bound shack dweller is at her wits end over the prospect of an inferno engulfing her household.

Nolizwi Jinoyi-Mzomba(43) says she lives with her two sons, aged 14 and 23 years, at a shack in BM Section, in Site B.

She also has a helper, who comes in from Monday to Friday, to cook, wash her and clean the house.

The area is prone to summer fires and she now fears that if anything happens, she would be found wanting, as she struggles to move her wheelchair about.

A few years ago, hundreds of people from her neighbourhood were left homeless after a fire broke out in the vicinity. Scores of victims were placed at the Mew Way hall.

In an interview, a visibly nervous Jinoyi-Mzomba said all she wants is a safe place to stay.

She said she has been relying on family and friends for assistance, since she first became bed-ridden in 2017 and wheelchair driven.

She said her troubles started two years ago, before she became completely paralysed early last year.

She felt “pricking needles under her right foot. The pain gradually went through the leg to the hip. The feeling later moved to the left leg, making it impossible for her to move.

Jinoyi-Mzomba claimed when she visited a private doctor, she was informed it was arthritis, and was referred to Tygerberg Hospital.

However, she said doctors at the hospital suspected scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine which may cause the spine to be in the shape of a C or S instead of being straight. It sometimes causes the body to look uneven through the shoulders, waist or hips.

Since then, her life has deteriorated, as she developed bladder problems. She is now using a catheter.

“My back was operated on in March, in order to insert a flexible wire, to try and straighten my backbone. Even now I still experience pains because the doctors told me that this will take up to a year to heal,” she said.

However, the fear of death by fire seems to occupy her mind all of the time.

“I cannot move, I must ask assistance just to be put on a bed or a chair ... My shack is too small even for my wheelchair to drive manoeuvre ... Even if I have to go out, I have to ask someone else to push me because there is no proper paving for my wheelchair.”

“I have to hire somebody to cook, do the washing and clean the house for me. She also bathes me because I cannot move,” she said.

Jinoyi-Mzomba was with her aunt Nomvo Mzomba- on a visit from Ilitha Park- who described her niece’s condition as disturbing. “She is a diabetic. My concern is once her legs have to be amputated,” she said. Mzomba said she wished for a motorized wheels.

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