Families still on tenterhooks over cholera outbreak

Mourners relate how their relatives succumbed

23 May 2023 - 08:00
By Noxolo Sibiya

Johannes Resimathe Mathosi and his daughter Sylvia Ndlhovu died just three days apart after experiencing diarrhoea and vomiting for hours.

Ndlhovu, 42, died at the Jubilee Hospital in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, on Sunday; and while the family was preparing for her burial, her 63-year-old father passed away at the same facility.

To make matters worse, Mathosi's wife Constance had also taken ill around the same time as her husband and daughter.

She remains in hospital and the family told Sowetan on Monday that they had taken a decision not to inform her about the deaths.

The family, which stays at Kudube Unit 9, also lost a dog which fell ill and started vomiting, leading to them believing they might have eaten poisoned food which was also given to their pet Bobby on May 11.

Mathosi's other daughter Martha said: "My parents got weaker and were taken to hospital that Thursday. On Friday, we woke up and found Bobby dead in the yard.

"My sister [Sylvia] and her son Tshepo started to complain about stomach cramps as well. She and her son were taken to hospital and were admitted. We knew something was wrong when the dog died but we thought someone had poisoned our food."

On Sunday, Sylvia had died. Three days later, another call from health officials came in to inform them about Mathosi's death.

"We have not told my mother about my father and sister's deaths because the nurse advised us not to. They told us it might worsen her condition. We will tell her once she is discharged," said Martha.

Tshepo was discharged from hospital just in time to bury his mother and grandfather at the weekend.

The father and daughter are among 15 people who had been confirmed dead following the cholera outbreak in the township. By 7pm on Monday, the death toll stood at 15.

On Sunday, the Gauteng department of health said 37 people were hospitalised with 95 being treated for diarrhoea.

Tshimologo Reatlegile Semenya, 3, the youngest person to die due to the cholera outbreak, fell ill on May 13.

The next day, his worried mother Dimakatso Semenya rushed him to the hospital where she said she waited in cramped Ward 14 for nearly four hours before a doctor could attend to him.

"Before they took him in, I felt my child getting colder and colder as I held him. His eyes were white," she said.

"A few minutes after they took him, the nurse emerged and called me to an office. She told me that my child is dead and that he had died by the time they took him in. I was in disbelief. He died in my arms, how?"

While the 22-year-old mother was at the hospital receiving the bad news, she had no idea that back home, her three-year-old brother was also showing similar symptoms as her son.

On the same day, little Keamogetswe was taken to the same hospital just before midnight.

"My sister and Keamogetswe waited for an entire day before he was helped. It was full. The entire Ward 14 was packed and people were throwing up and some messing on themselves," she said.

"At 9pm the next day, Keamogetswe got help. He was discharged yesterday and he is doing well.

"Two of my other nieces aged two months and seven were admitted yesterday," said Semenya.

Another victim, Linah Mahlangu, 68, of Mashemong Block CC, started experiencing a runny tummy and vomiting on May 17.

Her daughter Thoko said her mother got weak and collapsed. Mahlangu was driven to the Temba Clinic on May 18 and was transferred to the Jubilee Hospital.

Thoko said they received news of her death on May 20.

Thoko said she and her two daughters aged one and 13 have also been experiencing diarrhoea.

"We have been drinking tap water because we were never informed not to. But this is the first time it does this to us," she said.

"We have had a visit from social development and health [departments] who took our blood samples. They told us that they would communicate our results and tell us what to do next. We have not received any medication."

Sarah Tlhomelang, 75, from Kanana died on May 21 after spending two days in hospital.

Hours before her death, her granddaughter Kamogelo Stock, who nursed her ill grandmother, presented similar symptoms.

"My grandmother was such a strong woman. She never used a stick to walk and always did chores around the house. I have never seen her in that state.

"[Before she died] she couldn't sit on her own. Everything was just loose. She was vomiting and her tummy was running. We don't drink tap water... we have not done so for years now. We rely on water tankers."

Stock said the family wants answers on what the cause of the outbreak is.