Sanele (5) and Sabelo Mbatha (10), the two siblings from Katlehong who died of alleged food poisoning on Tuesday. Picture supplied

Johannesburg - MEC of Education Panyaza Lesufi has launched a forensic investigation into the deaths of three siblings who died in Katlehong, allegedly from food poisoning.

Sabelo and Sanele Mbatha, aged 10 and five respectively, died from food poisoning after they complained about stomach cramps and nausea on Tuesday. The boys had eaten a leftover meal given to them by their family’s tenant before going to school. Their seven-year-old brother, Sinenhlanhla, ate with his siblings, but did not go to school. 

The family said they have known the tenant for many years and treat him like family. This was not the first time he gave the children food, they explained. 

Sinenhlanhla was taken to the hospital for similar symptoms on Tuesday but he reportedly died this afternoon.

Lesufi visited the family and the boys' school, Kumalo Primary School, on Wednesday morning. The MEC said a sample of the food was taken by the Department of Health for investigation and the Education Department’s priority is establishing the cause of the incident.
“The information is quite clear, something went wrong here at home,” he said. “Other learners that are at school, nothing has happened to them.”

The mother of the three boys Phumzile Mbatha said her sons were not sick before they ate the food. “My children woke up and they were alright,” she said.
According to her, they ate and then she walked with her boys to school and shortly after that they became ill.

Lesufi, however, said they don’t want to speculate on the cause of death.
“What’s very important at the moment is to establish the cause and who’s responsible from either side; the school or the family,” he said.

The boy’s aunt Sibongile Mbatha said the family is not handling the deaths well.
“We’re not alright because it’s a sudden death,” said an emotional Mbatha. “They weren’t sick, they were alright. We just don’t know what killed them.”


The Star