Anele Ngqiba, 6, and Asemahle Ngqiba, 4, died after eating a chicken, apparently bought from a neighbour in Samora Machel.
Three adults, including Asemahle’s grandfather Mxolisi Mhaga, and three cousins were rendered ill.
On Sunday, Asemahle and Mhaga ate from a pot in which the chicken, sold live and usually slaughtered and plucked on the day, had been cooked. A relative, Nonceba Fukuse, said a few hours after eating the food, at about 8pm, the four-year-old suffered seizures.
“We rushed to a neighbour and asked that he transport us to the nearest hospital, but because we could not pay for the ride we were returned home where the child died,” she said.
Upon their return Mhaga also started showing signs of illness.
“He was faint and foam was coming out of his mouth. We managed to get transport and took him to the clinic where he was transferred to Groote Schuur Hospital,” she said.
On Monday, the family again ate leftovers from the same pot.
When more family members fell ill, they were rushed to hospital, where Anele, 6, later died.
Provincial Health spokesperson Darren Francis said: “Emergency Medical Services responded to an incident in Weltevreden Valley where seven patients, three adults and four children, allegedly ingested a poisonous food substance. Unfortunately, one of the children died and the remaining children were taken to Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in a serious condition, while the adults were taken to a nearby health facility.”
Francis said two of the three children admitted at Red Cross War Memorial Hospital were still in a critical condition. They were “quite severe”, he said. The third child was in a stable condition.
Two adults were being treated at the Mitchells Plain Hospital, one had been discharged while the other was still under observation.
Groote Schuur Hospital spokesperson Alaric Jacobs said Mhaga was still in a critical condition.
Francis said the police would investigate the circumstances around the poisonous food substances.
Police spokesperson Andre Traut said an inquest case docket had been opened for investigation. Postmortems would be conducted to determine the cause of the children’s deaths.
Fukuse said the family was in shock. “We often buy chickens from this woman and nothing like this has ever occurred. We are still trying to comprehend it all because on Monday when we ate from the same pot the signs became clearer.”
The family said the situation had brought emotional strain.
“It’s difficult for us to go visit those at the hospitals while in mourning. We now have to divide ourselves between the hospital and also there have to be those who remain home to grieve.”