Cape Town - Two toddlers died on Saturday within hours of eating their morning porridge prepared by a mother who unknowingly added a toxic substance she thought was sugar.
The cousins – a two-year-old boy, Lukhanyo Jwaqwa, and one-year-old girl Samkelo Lwane – were taken to Delft Day Hospital after they started shaking and foaming at the mouth a few minutes after eating their porridge.
It was prepared by Jwaqwa’s mother, Zanele Jwaqwa, 36, using sachets of what she thought was sugar borrowed from her friend and neighbour, Nombemu Mkhosi.
When the Cape Argus visited Jwaqwa’s home in Symphony Way, Delft, on Sunday, she and Samkelo’s mother, Thandeka Lwane, sat on a mattress in the living room covered by blankets. They are cousins.
They were comforted by neighbours and relatives.
A relative told the Cape Argus the two women were too distraught to speak to the media.
Jwaqwa’s younger brother, Zakhekile Jwaqwa, 31, said they believed the toddlers were killed by a poisonous chemical that Zanele mistook for sugar.
“After she finished cooking the porridge she realised that she didn’t have any sugar. She went to borrow it from her friend next door to put in the children’s porridge,” explained Zakhekile.
“She put about a spoonful in each bowl and the children ate about half of the porridge. Afterwards, Lukhanyo went outside to play. He came back after a few minutes and told his mother he wanted to sleep,” he said.
Zakhekile said the cousins then started shaking violently and foaming at the mouth. “Their faces just changed and their mouths turned black. We rushed them to Delft Day Hospital. They both died there,” said Zakhekile
He said although his sister was fine, she was given an injection and some pills at the hospital since she had a spoonful of the porridge before giving it to the children.
“She had a little taste, to check if it was fine before feeding the little one.
“It still feels like a dream or someone is playing a bad joke on us. Both mothers are traumatised and haven’t accepted it yet. We have packed all the baby stuff and took them next door. When she (Zanele) sees Lukhanyo’s shoes or toys she starts crying again,” he said.
Zakhekile described Lukhanyo as an energetic toddler who was just starting to talk. Samkelo, of Gugulethu, was often left in Zanele’s care, as her aunt is unemployed. Zanele also has a seven-year-old son.
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut, confirmed the deaths.
“A death inquest case has been registered to investigate the circumstances. It is suspected that the babies have been administered a poisonous substance.
“Post-mortems will be conducted to determine the exact cause of death,” said Traut.
Around the corner from the Jwaqwa home, Nombemu Mkhosi, from whom Zanele borrowed the “sugar sachets”, said she was “not feeling right”.
Mkhosi explained that her two-month-old daughter was also at the Jwaqwa home when the cousins ate the deadly porridge.
“If she was awake she, too, would had eaten it. I feel guilty because I was the one who brought the thing here,” she said.
Mkhosi, who works night shift at a cleaning company, said she took a handful of sachets from work believing they were sugar or salt. “They were white and on the side they were written ‘mix before use’,” she said.
“They looked like sugar. I thought it was some kind of sweetener you have to mix with water. When Zanele knocked on the door in the morning to borrow sugar I was getting ready for bed.
“I told her to get some sugar in my bag… we borrow from each other regularly and she looks after my child now and again,” said Mkhosi.
Mkhosi said this was the first time she had taken these kinds of sachets from her workplace.
Delft’s SAPS Victim Empowerment Programme co-ordinator, Farida Marinus, said they were helping the family with trauma counselling.