Johannesburg - ‘Why?” This is the question Reshpito Nhanzi of Schaumburg informal settlement in Hartbeespoort, North West, has been asking himself since Sunday morning after discovering his four children dead.
They were allegedly killed by his wife, who later hanged herself a kilometre away from their shack. The youngest child was three months old.
Sonia Covane, 29, who has been married to Nhanzi for 11 years, is believed to have poisoned the children between Saturday night and the early hours of Sunday morning.
Leaving her husband sleeping and the children dead, she had apparently got out of the house, closed the door and walked barefoot and without a jersey or an umbrella for a kilometre in the rain and the early morning chill.
The police said she had stopped in the bushes, took out a belt she had come with and hanged herself.
Nhanzi made the gruesome discovery of the dead children when he woke up on Sunday.
His wife’s body was found a few hours later.
Sitting on Monday in his tiny shack, which had gaping holes in the roof, Nhanzi, who works as a gardener, kept blinking as he spoke, unable to make sense of what could have driven his wife to commit such a deed.
He said they had looked for a suicide note but had drawn a blank.
“I don’t know why she would do that. Why would she not say what the problem was?” the 35-year-old man asked.
Nhanzi and Covane got married in 2001 and had four children: Orzito, 10, Jovase, 7, Moses, 2, and three-month-old Nelson.
The children used to stay in Mozambique with Covane’s family, and Nhanzi said he visited them frequently.
In 2009, Covane came to South Africa to live with her husband.
She had left the children back home and they would both visit them.
Last year, she went to visit them, and returned to South Africa with them in May without Nhanzi’s knowledge.
“I was surprised when I got a phone call at night that she was stuck with the children in Brits, North West, because they did not have transport.
“When I asked her why she had brought the children, she said she could not leave them with her sister any more,” he said.
According to Nhanzi, Covane was a very quiet person, and he doubted if she would have told him if there was something bothering her.
On Sunday at around 4am, Nhanzi said, he was asleep when he heard Covane open the door.
He heard her come inside, then go out again.
Nhanzi said he had woken up around 9am and was surprised that the house was unusually quiet as the children would normally make a noise.
Covane was also not in the house.
The youngest child, who slept with Covane on the other bed, was covered with a blanket.
“I opened the blanket and saw foam coming from his mouth. I touched him and he was cold. I went to the others, who were sleeping on the floor, and they were also cold. When I did not see her in the house, I told myself that she would not kill the children and want to live,” he said.
A neighbour said Covane kept to herself a lot.
“She would just greet you and that was all. We used to ask ourselves why she liked being on her own. Even when her children played with others, she would always call them to come back home. What happened really hurt us, I could not even work properly after hearing the news,” Eunice Zitha, 44, said.
North West police spokesman Lieutenant Sabata Mokgwabone said they suspected that Covane had poisoned the children.
However, they could not say what kind of poison had been used and whether it had been put in their mouths raw or been mixed with food.
He said they were still investigating.
The police are waiting for post-mortem results.