Son dies setting fire to home after fight with mom

A domestic dispute ended in the death of a son who had tried to attack his mother, before setting fire to the family home on Thursday.

Samkelo Mlaba (29) was also shot during an altercation with the police who came to his mother’s aid in Ridge Park near the Grange on Thursday.

He later died after an explosion in the fire he had set. Samkelo and his 65-year-old mother Mama Mlaba (whose first name had not been confirmed on Thursday night) apparently had an altercation over a gas cylinder that Samkelo had been sent to refill.

Alexandra Road police station spokesperson Captain Kholeka Mhlongo said the argument erupted when Samkelo got home and demanded money from his mother, saying the refill had cost him more than she had given him as there was a problem that needed to be fixed on the cylinder.

Mhlongo said Mlaba phoned the police with a complaint that Samkelo had assaulted her. She said this was not the first time officers had been called to the house over a domestic dispute between the mother and son but the mother never wanted to open a case. “When they were having the fight he threatened that he was going to buy petrol and burn the house. This was not the first time he had said that, but he never actually did it until [Thursday]. We suspect that he had already bought the petrol before making his threats because as the [police] were talking to his mother by the gate, he was in the yard,” she said.

Mhlongo said when the policemen went into the yard to speak to him he came at them with a big knife and threatened them. The police apparently ran onto the street and he followed them. She said a policeman told him not to come close because he was going to shoot him, but Samkelo still chased him with the knife and said “I’m going to stab you”.

“The male officer then fired one shot and it went through his upper right shoulder.”

Apparently Samkelo then turned and ran back into the house where he set fire to the home. Mhlongo said as police ran after him, there was an explosion before they reached the house. It is believed that the gas cylinder exploded, but this was still being investigated on Thursday. “After the explosion he came out of the house and tried to run to the neighbour’s house where his mother stood, but he collapsed and died before he could reach her.”

He suffered second degree burns.

When The Witness visited the scene, the neighbours — many still in disbelief — gathered on manicured lawns along the street while the emergency services personnel worked. They were shocked out of their quiet afternoon when they heard the explosion coming from the Mlaba home. “They occasionally had arguments — which is normal in most families — but no one could have suspected that one day it would lead to a death,” said one of the residents.

However, others said police had been called to the house on numerous occasions because of the fights between the Mlabas.

Another neighbour said he had heard that Samkelo had a mental disorder and was supposedly on medication for it. “It’s really tragic what happened. I can’t really imagine what Mama Mlaba and her family are going through. Our prayers go out to them.