Life beyond scars for taxi fire survivor

According to the Medical Research Council, children under the age of three years are particularly at risk of burns. (File Photo)
Written by Zizo Zikali

Every year thousands of South Africans sustain burn injuries from fire, steam, boiling water and chemicals. Many victims are left dejected and feel they have no hope of living a normal life.

However, 32-year-old Nombulelo Maqutywa of Qoboqobo close to King William’s Town, says there is life beyond the scars. She was only 18 when she suffered burns in a vehicle fire.

“I was in a taxi which broke down. The driver asked the men in the taxi to help push but it burst into flames. We managed to get out through the emergency exit and I was rushed to the hospital.  I suffered burns in my face, hands and feet. I dropped out of school and lost my friends and boyfriend.”

Maqutywa visited Johannesburg and joined a support group for people who had sustained burns. “That helped me regain my confidence.  I have never heard of such support groups in the Eastern Cape. I wish I could counsel other people, especially young people, who had sustained burn injuries and make them realise that it is not the end of their life; that they can live a normal life,” she said.


Maqutywa said life was difficult after the incident because she was rejected by some people she considered close friends, but she also found comfort in the love and support she received from her family.    

Jason Subramoney of the Department of Public Safety in the O.R Tambo District Municipality urged people to be extra vigilant during winter.

“People should be extra vigilant when using paraffin stoves.  Children should not be allowed to operate paraffin stoves and shouldn’t be left unattended near fires,” he said.  

The National Burns Association of South Africa offers support to burn victims.

“We support burns survivors through a WhatsApp group and if anyone has special needs we communicate privately and offer assistance,” said the organisation’s Colin Lee.

For more information visit their website www.nbasa.org.za.  

An edited version of this story was published by Health24.

About the author

Zizo Zikali

Zizo Zikali is our Eastern Cape based citizen journalist who also heads news at Inkonjane Community Radio in Flagstaff. Under her leadership, the news team is receiving recognition from local government and is the defending champion for Alfred Nzo District Municipality Annual Award for Best Innovative Current Affairs Programme. Zizo has over six years experience in community media and worked for organisations such as Voice of Tembisa FM from 2011-2014 and Inkonjane community Radio since 2014. Her educational qualifications include an Advanced Radio Certificate from University of the Witwatersrand obtained in 2016 and a Human Resources Management qualification from the Durban University of Technology obtained in 2008.