Durban - The death of a Durban toddler who was allegedly given an alcoholic drink spiked with ecstasy at a child’s birthday party, has been met with shock and outrage.
Two-year-old Phiwokuhle Mthethwa started foaming at the mouth and bleeding from his nose when he went to bed after 1.30am, on his return from a party in uMlazi on Saturday night.
“We rushed him to Prince Mshiyeni Memorial (Hospital) around 5.30am where nurses told me he had been dead for a while,” his devastated 20-year-old mother, Nobuhle Mthethwa, told the Daily News on Monday.
Said Mthethwa: “My friend’s child was turning 10 and all the children had been playing outside. I saw a guy - who I know - with a can in his hand. He gave Phiwokuhle a drink from the can once. I’m not sure how much he drank. He could have sipped on the drink more than once. But I did not see it.”
She said the can contained an alcoholic beverage and she was certain it had been laced with ecstasy.
People at the party had been taking the drugs in their drinks at the party, she said.
“Phiwokuhle was fine when we left around 1.30am. When he got to his father’s place he fell asleep,” Mthethwa said.
“He later started foaming at the mouth and bleeding from his nose.’
Police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, said no arrests had been made because police were waiting for the post-mortem results.
“We are not able to reveal who the suspects are at this stage,” said Zwane.
Social development MEC, Weziwe Thusi, described the toddler’s death as shocking.
“This is yet another example of why our communities should rise against the scourge of drugs before it completely destroys our communities,” she said.
“I do not understand what a two-year-old child was doing at a party where alcohol was served.”
Thusi called on parents and others to do more to protect children against drugs and alcohol.
“A two-year-old child has been robbed of his life and someone must pay for it,” she said.
Durban advocate, Kessie Naidu, said the man who allegedly supplied the child with the drink could be prosecuted for culpable homicide, as he ought to have foreseen that a child of such tender years could easily succumb to the effects of an excessive intake of alcohol.
“The amount of alcohol in the blood could have been ascertained if a sample of the child’s blood had been analysed,” he said.
But the boy’s mother could also potentially land in trouble.
“If it can be established by affidavits of people present at the party that the mother was aware of the man giving alcohol to the child and that this had happened over a period of time and not a single isolated incident, then the mother can be charged for allowing her child to be subjected to ill-treatment,” Naidu said.
Mthethwa sounded confused when told of Naidu’s assessment of the legal situation, saying she would discuss it with her mother.
“It’s hard, I don’t know what to say. I hear what you saying but our family right now doesn’t even have money to bury my child,” she said.
Jackie Branfield, founder of the children’s rights NGO, Operation Bobby Bear, said the drug situation had reached pandemic proportion.
“And here we have to look at ourselves as a society and ask ourselves where we failed this baby,” she said.
“My heart goes out to the mother of this child because she is now going to have to spend the rest of her life in absolute sorrow because of one drunken evening.”
Branfield said her organisation was dealing with more and more similar cases, which made her ask:
“Where are all the functional parents in society?”