Shonisani Lethole
Shonisani Lethole

Businessman fighting Covid-19 dies after complaining of not being fed for two days

By Gift Tlou Time of article published Jul 2, 2020

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Johannesburg - Shonisani Lethole's last tweet to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize was a plea for food, seemingly after staff at Tembisa Hospital failed to feed him for two days as he was a patient fighting Covid-19.

Five days after the heartfelt tweet to Mkhize went unanswered, Lethole took his last breath on the cold beds of the Ekurhuleni hospital on Tuesday.

The family and friends of the 33-year-old entrepreneur from Kempton Park were left distraught and shattered at the manner in which he died after being admitted to the hospital on June 22 after experiencing difficulty breathing.

He tweeted the minister three days into his stay, alerting him of his traumatic experience.

“Mkhize can I respond to your tweets if the problems I have at one of your facilities continues, its becoming unbearable and they don’t seem to care. Didn’t eat for 48 hours,” read his tweet.

Close friends and business associates took to social media to express their frustrations at the Department of Health. Nandi Shibita urged the minister and president to act urgently.

“I have heard that nurses and staff avoid Covid-19 patients because they don’t want to contract it. It’s a sad thing to watch, please do something.”

Radio host Nicky Blumenfeld posted on her Facebook page: “I am heartbroken and devastated to hear that one of my dearest friends, Shonisani Lethole, passed away this morning. Shoni was one of the greatest and most beautiful people I have ever known. Having you in my life made it a richer and more soulful experience. You will live on in my heart.”

Both Mkhize’s spokespersons, Popo Maja and Dr Lwazi Manzi, failed to respond to The Star’s media query.

The arts entrepreneur and managing partner at Lean Business Platform South Africa was first taken to Kempton clinic after he complained of back pains and breathing problems.

His father, Albert Lethole, confirmed his son was not on medical aid though they had consulted with a private facility where they ran a few tests before taking him to Tembisa Hospital.

The father also revealed that they were welcomed by a white doctor at Tembisa Hospital who was rude to his son and told him to quarantine at home.

“Shoni was in a wheelchair and I stood back while the doctor interrogated him, but I could hear the doctor raising his voice and that’s when I stepped in and had a word with the doctor. He blamed the mask, stating that patients cannot hear him, which is why he was loud,” he said.

Albert said his son was finally admitted. “In the evening he called me and told me that he was hungry. I went to the hospital to drop off food for him. Visitors were not allowed so I had to plead with one of the nurses to take it to him,” he said.

The father said the updates they kept getting from his son caused distress to the family. “He told us that the person that was with him in the ward was dead. His girlfriend had to call the Health Department to make sure they moved the dead body.”

He said his son was on a ventilator and struggled to breathe, and that he couldn’t move around freely.

“He also told us that nurses are refusing to help him and he cannot go to the bathroom on his own.”

The family were called to the hospital on Saturday, where they were given Shonisani’s belongings. However, the hospital would not give them a proper update on their son’s condition.

“I was surprised that we were called to get his clothes and cellphones. All we were told was that he is fine.

“The food that I got him during the week was still sealed. I could feel that something was wrong but they were just not forthcoming with information,” he said.

Gauteng Department of Health spokesperson Kwara Kekana said the department was aware of the incident, and that the matter was brought to the attention of the office of the MEC and was referred to the hospital’s chief executive for management.

“The department will ascertain all facts surrounding the incident with the quality assurance team, and a detailed report will be provided to the family,” she said.

The Star

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