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Dad sees girl die 'after eating biscuits'

‘She died in front of me. I died with her’

Noxolo Sibiya Journalist
Refiloe Usman was a grade 1 pupil at Mandlethu Primary School.
Refiloe Usman was a grade 1 pupil at Mandlethu Primary School.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

The father of a six-year-old girl who died after eating biscuits from a spaza shop stood by his dying daughter for an hour as he watched her life slip away.

Little Refiloe Usman died at Mandlethu Primary School in Tsakane, Ekurhuleni, on Tuesday morning, hours after eating biscuits her father had bought while they walked to school that day.

Lucky Mkhwanazi said he was walking his two daughters to school in the company of a neighbour with her three children when they decided to stop at a nearby spaza shop and bought biscuits as they were already late for the breakfast served at school.

“I don’t usually buy biscuits for Refiloe but I would buy some for her younger sister and put them in her backpack for later, But yesterday [Tuesday] we were a little late. They had missed breakfast at school, so when she [Refiloe] saw me buying some for her sister, she also wanted some,” he said.

His neighbour, Gugu Mabaso, also bought some for her three children.

Just before 11am Mkhwanazi received a call from the school informing him that Rifiloe had collapsed after vomiting.

“I immediately rushed to the school. I found my daughter lying on the ground near her classroom door with her eyes wide open. She was paralysed. She could only move her fingers to signal that she could hear me.”

Mkhwanazi broke down as he told how he watched as his daughter slowly slipped away.

Motshidise Usman, the mother of six-year-old Refiloe Usman, who died after eating biscuits bought from a spaza shop on her way to school in Tsakane, Ekurhuleni.
Motshidise Usman, the mother of six-year-old Refiloe Usman, who died after eating biscuits bought from a spaza shop on her way to school in Tsakane, Ekurhuleni.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

“I kept talking to her. I told her to hang in there, that she would be fine. I could see that she could hear me but her pulse was becoming weaker and weaker. She died in front of me. I died with her. She was my world. I will never be the same again,” said Mkhwanazi.

Refiloe’s younger sister Bonolo, 3, their friends Slindile, 3, Nqobile, 6, and Samkelo ,9, were hospitalised after eating biscuits from the same shop. They were discharged yesterday.

Mkhwanazi shared how special his daughter was to him.

“She knew when I was down and only she could cheer me up. She knew our morning routine. I would bath her, dress her and do her hair, then we’d walk to school. Every day.”

Tensions rose high in the community as some spaza shops, including the one where the biscuits were bought, were looted on Tuesday evening. Somali shop owners closed their shops and could be seen leaving the area amid Operation Dudula’s call for them to vacate the area.

“We are leaving because the situation is getting bad. I only found out during last night’s looting of the shops that a child had died after eating something bought from a shop. Today we decided to lock up and leave because it was getting intense,” said a shop owner who wanted to remain anonymous. 

Education MEC Matome Chiloa visited the affected families along with teachers from the school to send their condolences. He said the department would offer psychological support to the affected pupils, teachers and families.

“The father indicated that he could not afford bread and that is why he bought biscuits. While the school does provide meals there seems to be a [financial] problem in the area. I have spoken to my colleague from social development to see if they can come to the area and offer some support,” Chiloa said. 

 


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