She was on the sixteenth floor when the smoke started rising and ran down the stairs to escape the building.
As the fire spread through Naledi Manyoni's apartment building, she was holding her baby on the balcony of the burning building with nowhere to go. Waiting below was a group of people urging her to throw the baby towards them. Faced with no other option, she threw her 2-year-old at them, trusting a group of strangers to catch her. The incident happened on Tuesday when a 26-year-old South African mom, Thuthuka Zondi, threw her daughter, Melokuhle, from the burning building during the ongoing riots in Durban, reported BBC News. The incident was filmed by BBC cameraman Thuthuka Zondi who posted the video on Twitter, where it went viral.
[WATCH] Toddler rescued from a fire. Looters started a fire after stealing everything from the shops on the ground floor. They then set fire to the building, affecting apartments upstairs. Neighbours caught the little girl 🥺#ShutdownKZN watch @BBCWorld for more pic.twitter.com/LTMTAa7WAz— Nomsa Maseko (@nomsa_maseko) July 13, 2021
Naledi Manyoni did manage to survive the fire and reunited with her daughter once she got out. She was on the sixteenth floor of the Durban apartment building when the ground floor of the building was set on fire by those protesting the arrest of ex-President Jacob Zuma. “All I could think was to make sure my baby lived,” Manyoni told BBC later. Once she saw smoke rising, Manyoni grabbed her child to exit the building. The elevators weren't working as a result of the fire, so she ran down the stairs with her child. She managed to reach the first floor of the building by taking the stairs but couldn't reach the ground floor where the fire had spread.
She then headed for the balcony and managed to squeeze through and saw crowds below. She pleaded with the people on the road to help. They urged her to throw her baby down. “All I could do was trust complete strangers,” said Manyoni, who threw her baby. The strangers all raised their hands to catch the baby. BBC cameraman Zondi who captured the moment was stunned by the visual. He posted the image of 2-year-old Melokuhle in mid-air with people raising their hands reaching out to catch her and wrote, "Captured one those images that will forever live in my heart. Amongst the chaos there were heroes today, they caught her and she is fine."
Manyoni said she had her heart in her mouth after letting go of her baby. "After throwing her, I held my head in shock, but they caught her," said Manyoni, reported Reuters. Melokuhle sat on her mother's shoulders as she spoke to the media outside the building after being rescued. "She kept saying, 'Mama you threw me down there.' She was scared." For Manyoni, it was a calculated risk she had to take given the situation. "What was important was for my daughter to be out of that situation... I couldn't escape alone and leave her behind," she said.
There have been riots across South Africa in the wake of former President Jacob Zuma being arrested and jailed for failing to appear for a corruption inquiry. The protests originated near Zuma's home province KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday before it turned into riots, arson, and looting. The riots extended to provincial Durban and Johannesburg, the commercial hub of South Africa. At least 72 people have died as a result of the riots related to the protests. "The path of violence, of looting and anarchy, leads only to more violence and devastation," said President Cyril Ramaphosa. “It leads to more poverty, more unemployment, and more loss of innocent life. This is not who we are as a people.” He added that the riots could cause further harm by disrupting the supply of crucial goods. “Goods will be late in reaching destinations, if at all, as transport operators run the risk of having trucks and cargo damaged, burnt, or looted by rioting crowds,” he said, reported Business Tech.