That winter, Mathabane’s mother uses a burning brazier to fight off the bitter cold in their shack. However, one night she forgets to put it outside before falling asleep. Mathabane wakes to Florah rolling on the floor, screaming that she is on fire. Mathabane realizes that he can’t breathe at all, as if someone is strangling him. Their mother rushes in, pats Florah to extinguish the flames, and drags Mathabane outside into the pouring rain, where the air rushes back into his lungs. His mother tells him that he was lucky Florah cried out so loud. Brazier smoke kills many poor people each winter.
This passage demonstrates how easily someone in abject poverty can die from a simple mistake. Since Mathabane’s family is too poor to afford any safe heating measures, they are forced to use an unsafe measure that can possibly kill them, demonstrating yet another way that apartheid-induced poverty threatens the people who suffer it.