Couple found dead in tent at Jika-Joe

POLICE are investigating the death of a couple at Jika-Joe informal settlement.

Paulus Tabiso Mokeona (53) and Nomsa Patricia Lugayeni (53) were found dead by their 13-year old daughter in their tent last Friday morning.

Two weeks ago, Mokeona and Lugayeni, originally from Matatiele in the Eastern Cape, were forced from their home thanks to a fire that destroyed about 41 informal settlement dwellings, resulting in the couple living in a tent provided to them by the municipality.

Though unconfirmed, it is alleged that Mokeona and Lugayeni’s deaths were caused by suffocation from smoke from a paraffin stove that was found lying on the floor of their tent.

The “love birds” had been living at Jika-Joe informal settlement for 19 years.

Amanda Lugayeni (19), who is their eldest daughter, told Echo that they used to live closer to her parents but, because of the fire, she and her siblings had to move further away.

She said their room survived the fire while their parents’ house was burnt to ashes in the recent blaze.

She said they are still shocked by their parents’ death and they don’t know what they are going to do, or how are they going to transport their parents’ bodies to the Eastern Cape.

“I last saw them last Thursday evening, around 9 pm when I went to cook for them. After I finished cooking, I switched off the paraffin stove because they were sitting around the fire outside. I left them and went to sleep at the premises where I am now residing after the fire.

“Before I left, I asked my mother if she was okay to which she replied “yes” and that I could leave.

“On Friday morning I asked my younger sister to go and check if our mother was awake. She came back, running to the room, telling me that our mother did not want to wake up.

“I rushed to their tent and found them just lying there.

“I tried to wake them up. When I noticed that they weren’t responding. I called the neighbours for help because I didn’t know what to do.

“They told me that it was too late, my parents were already dead,” Amanda said.

Amanda said they are confused and need guidance as they are all so young.

She said they are still traumatised, especially her 13-year-old sister who saw them first.

“It is not easy to see your parents lying there and knowing that there is nothing you can do to help them.

“We can’t even afford to give them a dignified funeral because I am not working and my two siblings are still attending school.

“We are pleading to anyone who can assist us with donations so that we can transport the bodies back home.”

Thembinkosi Magagula, who is the community leader, said the community was heartbroken to hear what had happened to the couple.

“If the allegations are that the couple suffocated due to smoke, it means they were feeling cold and decided to keep the tent warm with a paraffin stove.

“If the municipality [had] allowed them to rebuild their houses again after the fire, none of this would have happened,” he said.

Pietermaritzburg Police Station Spokesperson Captain Khosi Khonjelwayo, who was on the scene, said they are waiting for the results of the postmortem that will reveal the cause of death.

“The woman was found with blood in her nose, which we suspect was due to smoke suffocation,” Khonjelwayo said.

Police have opened an inquest docket.

Anyone who would like to assist the Lugayeni family can contact Amanda on 078 581 4008.

I rushed to their tent and found them just lying there.

I tried to wake them up. When I noticed that they weren’t responding. I called the neighbours for help because I didn’t know what to do. They told me that it was too late, my parents were already dead... It is not easy to see your parents lying there and knowing that there is nothing you can do to help them.