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Property including musical instruments, chairs, tables, travel and identification documents worth thousands of dollars were lost in the fire that broke out at around 1AM yesterday. Other goods that were lost, including blankets, shoes, electrical gadgets, clothing, books and bags belonged to church members who are informal traders who kept them at the church overnight.
No one was injured in the fire at Mount Olives Kingdom of Prayer International church near Basch Street Terminus, popularly known as Egodini that also destroyed cottages at the church.
A storeroom and two cottages within the church’s premises were also destroyed.
Church authorities and the Fire Brigade suspect foul play.
Speaking to The Chronicle, Mount Olives Kingdom of Prayer International church’s Bishop Gordon Dube, who resides in a cottage with another family at the church, said they were awoken by people from an adjacent building alerting them of the fire.
He said they “lost everything” and do not know the cause of the fire but they suspected foul play.
“We heard loud screams from our neighbours, saying there was a fire and we will burn inside. The fire started in the locker room which is attached to the church and the cottages where vendors, some whom are our church members, store their wares for safekeeping over the night,” said Bishop Dube.
“We tried to put out the fire but it was fast spreading to other rooms through the ceiling. We then called the Fire Brigade at around 2AM who had a hard time to access the locker room.
“Good Samaritans brought these blankets that are wrapped around the children just to help us keep warm.”
Bulawayo Chief Fire Officer Richard Petersen said they suspected foul play as there were no electrical gadgets in the storeroom where the fire emanated from.
He said the matter has now been referred to the police for further investigations.
Petersen said investigations by the Fire Brigade established that there had been squabbles among informal traders who keep their goods in the storeroom that caught fire first before it spread.
He added that they also established that there is always a guard at the storeroom except on the day the fire was reported.
“The fire started in a storeroom. There is no electrical gadgets where the fire could have started. It’s just a storeroom with nothing else,” said Petersen.
Bulawayo police provincial spokesperson Inspector Mandlenkosi Moyo could not be reached immediately for comment.
When The Chronicle arrived at the church yesterday, informal traders were rummaging through the locker room, trying to salvage what they could.
They appealed to the Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development, Sithembiso Nyoni, for help saying they had financed their businesses through loans which they are yet to repay fully.
Aleck Mugore said he lost all of his stock.
He said he does not know how he would get back on his feet after the accident.
“I’m really pained because all my wares were lost in the fire and I’m totally grounded. I lost goods valued at around $5,000,” said Mugore.
“Whoever did this will surely be punished because how can a normal being come and start a fire. I sympathise with my colleagues and the bishops. God will see us through.”
Another trader, Fildah Ndlovu, said she was a single parent and does not know how she will fend for her children after the loss.
“This was my livelihood. I send my children to school with the money I get from selling my wares. I am just going back home to see how will I get to my feet,” she said. by Bulisile Mguni and Shamiso Dzingire. Source: chronicle