Grandma grieves for children lost in fire

Eleanor Adams is the grandmother of seven-month-old Zaynoorah Brandt and her sister Zaytoon, 2, who died after their wendy house, in Colorado Park, went up in flames.

A Colorado Park woman prays that the deaths of her grandchildren, who died after their wendy house went up in flames, would spark change in the lives of their parents, her son and his girlfriend, who used drugs (“Baby and toddler perish in blaze”, Plainsman June 13).

Eleanor Adams spoke to the Plainsman last Wednesday, June 27, hours after she received the charred remains of seven-month-old Zaynoorah Brandt and her sister Zaytoon, 2 (“Remains of fire victims finally released”, Plainsman, June 27).

She has visited her son, Cameron Adams, 30, in Pollsmoor twice since his arrest moments after the fire which started around 3am on Tuesday June 12.

The girls’ mother Tashleema Brandt disappeared but handed herself over for arrest at Lentegeur police station on Tuesday June 19. Both of them are in custody and face charges of child neglect. They are due to appear in the Mitchell’s Plain Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday July 11.

“I could see a change already. He said to me that he missed the children and being with the family during this difficult time,” said Ms Adams.

“After this we prayed,” she said.

Ms Adams said she had always spoken to Cameron and the girls’ mother about stopping their drug use.

“I tried my best, I prayed for them and I ensured that they and the children were cared for and had something to eat,” she said.

She said Zaytoon was protective of her younger sister and that they would fall asleep in each other’s arms.

They would be in Ms Adams’s house from early in the day, when Cameron would come in to make a bottle for Zaynoorah and tea for her older sister.

“I miss that everyday routine. I was at home. I saw them care for their children. They never put their children one side. The children got love from both of them,” she said.

Ms Adams recalled Cameron coming to her around 2am to ask if she could watch the children.

“But for some reason I wasn’t feeling myself and I said I can’t look after them. I’m tired,” she said.

She said Cameron and Tashleema then left.

About an hour later she heard the dog barking.

“There was no shouting. I didn’t smell any smoke. God decided to take them. They are in a better place. I made peace. This is a hard knock for us but it must bring about change in Cameron and Tashleema.”

Ms Adams said she had been to various rehabilitation institutions for assistance but all of them said the addicts had to come themselves.

Ashley Potts, director of Cape Town Drug Counselling, told the Plainsman that whenever children were involved, substance abuse had to be reported to the Department of Social Development, and social workers could be sent to do an assessment.

Mr Potts said often parents wanted to protect their children.

“Parents should not jeopardise their children’s well-being while they are using drugs. The children face adverse effects, like secondary substance use,” he said, adding that there were programmes in place for parents to understand addiction.

Mr Potts appealed to property owners with informal dwellings on their land, to check what was happening in their backyards and for the tenants to take precautions when using heaters or fires.

Xolani Koyana, spokesperson for Mayor Patricia de Lille, confirmed that the City of Cape Town would be covering the costs of the children’s funeral through the Mayor’s Special Fund.

He said an application for funding had been submitted by Ward 75 councillor Joan Woodman, and that it had been approved.

The Mayor’s Special Fund was set up to offer funding to charitable causes in Cape Town and also provide financial assistance to families in need who were not able to afford the funeral costs to bury their children.

As part of the special fund, the mayor can disburse an amount up to R5 000 towards the funerals of children up to the age of 18, from families who are in need.

Donations can only be made to funerals which take place within the municipal boundaries.

The ward councillor for the area can assist in facilitating this request between the family and the mayor’s office.