The community of Joe Slovo, in Langa, is reeling after the mysterious death of three teenage friends from a suspected case of food poisoning.
The trio, Mzingisi Gwebecimele, 17, Athule Mkhonzi, 17, and Khanyisa Mthamzeli, 16, died on Saturday night, allegedly after having eaten vetkoek from a local shop.
A fourth friend, Athabile Loyeli, 17, is in the intensive care unit, at Somerset Hospital. He was transferred to Somerset from Vanguard Community Health Centre, where two of his friends Athule and Mzingisi were confirmed dead.
According to Khanyisa’s mother, he died from severe stomach pains.
In an interview with Vukani, a heartbroken Neziswa Mthamzeli, 38, said she had just returned from a church mother’s union meeting when her son came into the house to ask for R2. This was after 4pm.
“That was the last time I spoke to him,” she said.
“I gave him R5 and he left.”
Ms Mthamzeli said it was around midnight when Khanyisa returned home feeling sick and went to bed.
“He was trembling like someone with fits, and sweating. He fell off the bed,” she said.
Ms Mthamzeli said at this stage he requested some water, but that did not seem to help him.
He then asked for some of the water to be thrown over him. “We could not ask him any questions. We threw him with water until he was wet,” she said.
After a while he appeared to have calmed down. “He was very stiff. We picked him up and put him on the bed on his stomach,” she said.
Ms Mthamzeli said it was only in the morning, when Khanyisa’s twin brother, Khanya, noticed that his brother was not moving. He was still in the same position they had left him in. “I tried to wake him up, but he was cold,” she said.
Unsure what to do, Ms Mthamzeli said she called some of her neighbours who said he would be “okay”. Realising that there was no movement from her son, she said she could not control her emotions and broke down into tears.
It was only then that another member of the community confirmed his death.
Ms Mthamzeli said she was puzzled when a police officer arrived later and informed her that two other boys had died in a similar fashion in hospital.
“We are now waiting for the post-mortem results, but we have heard that they ate amagwinya,” she said.
“Everyone is hurt by what has happened. I have nothing to say, it is all in God’s hands. If this is a deliberate thing, God sees, and if it is the will of God, it is okay.”
Ms Mthamzeli said she expected a lot from her son. “He always wanted to become something so that he would take me out of this misery,” she said.
Family member Makabongwe Mfula said Mzingisi, who had been in Grade 11 at Langa High School, had woken up and cleaned the house on Saturday before going out with friends.
He said he had had a close relationship with all his friends and they often spent time together. He said Mzingisi had only returned to the house around midnight – with stomach pains. “It was like something was eating him,” he said.
Mr Mfula said they got a vehicle to rush him to Vanguard Community Health Centre. “When I pinched him on our way to the hospital I could see that he was not responding,” said Mr Mfula.
He added that 10 minutes after their arrival at the facility, Mzingisi was declared dead. “It is very painful,” he said. “We did not expect him to die like this.”
Athabile’s mother, Nokuthula Simayile, said he had left home after 9pm and returned with serious stomach pains around 2am. “He was sweating,” she said.
“When we asked him why, he said he was being chased by the thugs. He was shaking,” she said.
Ms Simayile said his condition deteriorated and the family decided to get a car to rush him to hospital. Fortunately for him the nurses and doctors managed to save his life. “We would love to hear from him what exactly happened. At this stage we are not sure what has happened,” said Ms Simayile.
She added that she had not taken the matter seriously, until she heard of the passing of the other boys. “It is only sinking in now. I am still shocked at what happened. Yes, he survived, but what about those who did not make it? We are equally hurt by the tragedy,” said Ms Simayile.
She said when they had visited Athabile on Monday August 28, there had been some improvement in his condition. “Hopefully he will be able to explain what happened. But he is going to be hurt when he hears that his friends died. They were very close.
“These kids would come here all the time,” she said.
Police spokesperson Captain Nondumiso Paul confirmed the deaths and that police were investigating a case of attempted murder.
She said an inquest docket had been opened and that the cause of death had not yet been determined.
“The reason for their death is unknown at this stage. We are awaiting the postmortem results,” said Captain Paul.
Anyone with information about the incident can contact investigating officer detective Captain Sigenu on 079 880 9818 or contact Langa SAPS at 021 695 8013.