Image depicting a fire raging through a house
The fire at the house in Boet Lombaard Street tearing through the lounge.

It was at around 01:45 on Valentine’s morning, 14th of February 2024, that residents in Boet Lombaard Street
awoke to the sound of what they thought were people striking metal plates.

The smoke and flames however quickly dispelled those assumptions, and they soon realized a fire was engulfing their neighbour’s
home. The sounds they were hearing were in fact glass shattering from the intense heat.

Bulletin arrived on scene, at 34 Boet Lombaard Street, just after 02:00 and it was immediately noticeable that every room in the house was burning simultaneously. The house was also clearly devoid of any furniture and there were no occupants either in the building or outside on the pavement.

The front door of the house was standing open when the fire brigade arrived. Photos: Joe Dreyer

Accompanying security personnel onto the premises we noticed that the front door to the house was stood open and two metres from it lay a cigarette lighter and a notebook. Both appeared to have been hastily thrown to the floor. The front door was on fire but strangely a large hole around where the door’s handle would have been, appeared to be from where the fire was spreading.

A BMW X5 was parked right by the door.

The fire brigade arrived a short while later and immediately jumped into action by unrolling the hoses and dispatching crew top various points around the building. The only catch was that there was no water in the fire hydrants for them to connect their fire truck to which rendered the fire truck useless.

The fire department then called for a “bakkie-sakkie” which arrived on scene. The vehicle carried around 500 to 800 litres of water and has its own pump which enabled the fire firefighters to dowse the flames.

The fire truck which arrived at the scene was unable to deploy all its hoses as there was no water in the fire hydrants.

“This is what scares us as homeowners,” said longtime resident, Wayne Kurten. “Every night there is no water in the pipes from about 21:00 to the next morning at around 05:00 because of the reservoirs that apparently need to be filled. We are very lucky that there was no wind on Wednesday morning during that fire, because if there was, the entire Aquapark would have been burning like what happened in Pahalaborwa last year! The fire department simply doesn’t have the capacity to deal with major incidents.”

The DA Tzaneen Caucus leader and ward councillor for ward 14, Rene Pohl, was also on the scene. The fire was dowsed without collateral damage to the surrounding properties.

We did some investigating and discovered that the property is owned by Stanley Malatji, the former Tzaneen lawyer who was struck from the roll in 2013. According to the property information the house was sold to Malatji in May 2007 and registered in August that same year through the VBS Mutual Bank.

We have received unconfirmed reports that the property was to go on auction in March this year. This has not yet been confirmed.

It is alleged that the vehicle which was parked by the front door (the BMW X5) had been parked on that spot for many months and that Malatji was not residing in the house but that apparently an acquaintance of his was looking after the property. One witness told Bulletin that approximately a half an hour before the fire was first noticed, they were alerted to a suspicious vehicle driving through the neighbourhood.

It was immediately apparent to all bystanders that the fire was burning in all the rooms of the house simultaneously.

It was a vehicle they had never seen in their street before and it was driving abnormally slowly.

More concerning is that by yesterday afternoon (Thursday the 15th of February), the smouldering remains of the house had still not been cordoned off as a potential crime scene. There does not appear to be any investigators at the premises either.

This is an ongoing story and we will keep you updated as more information becomes available.