The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday News Reporter
FOUR members of a Binga family have died while three have been hospitalised after they allegedly drank alcohol bought from an illegal alcohol dealer in South Africa.
The seven, all male, are from Chisawu under Chief Sinamagonde and were resident in Doornfontein, Johannesburg. They had reportedly bought the “deadly” alcohol from a man who is believed to be a fellow Zimbabwean. In the wake of the hospitalisation and death of some of his customers, he is said to have since disappeared. After buying the alcohol from the man in Booysens last Wednesday, the family members reportedly gathered to drink it, as they had become used to sharing booze during the lockdown in South Africa. The four were identified as Sumukai Ngwenya, Khumbulani Tshuma, Takoniwa Tshuma and Jealous Tshuma.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa re-instituted an alcohol ban in South Africa in July, as part of lockdwon measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.
In an interview with Sunday News, Ms Takesure Ndlovu, a relative to the four deceased, said the official cause of death had been listed as alcohol poisoning. She said the four fell ill after gathering with other family members as they had been accustomed to doing.
“It is being said that seven people passed away but that’s not the case. There were many people who drank the alcohol but seven got sick. Out of the seven, three managed to survive. So four passed away and no one else has succumbed to what they drank. These are all people that are members from one family that are related in different ways. When they found alcohol, they gathered each other as family and started drinking because as family you share everything as one people in a foreign place. That’s how they died as members of one family,” she said.
When she spoke to Sunday News on Friday, Ms Ndlovu said they were still in the dark about what the substance that was in the alcohol or the name of the brand the seven had imbibed.
“They drank alcohol but we don’t know what was in the alcohol. As it is, we are just fighting to get enough money to have the bodies released and as we speak, we are at a meeting and we have managed to get enough money to get their bodies back home. The person who sold the alcohol to them can’t be found. His phone goes straight to voicemail. We are looking for him because he is also a Zimbabwean just like us.
This is what we got from those that were sick before they passed away,” she said.
The bodies of the four were repatriated from South Africa on Friday evening. Mr Reason Tshuma, another family member resident in South Africa, said while they would have loved for further investigations to determine the quartet’s cause of death, they had to go for a quick fix because of the high cost of keeping bodies in South African mortuaries.
“What has happened here is very painful. We initially wanted this to go through the police but that is tricky because of the lockdown restrictions. Those that have knowledge of these things have told us that it will be a bit tricky to repatriate the bodies and with the way money is scarce right now it is also difficult to keep the bodies. There’s no place where they can be kept for free and the other painful thing is that most of the people who passed away are people that were not working and people that were in this country illegally,” Mr Tshuma said.
He described the four as people that were down on their luck and were doing anything to survive.
“As I speak these are people that just wanted cash in hand. They didn’t even have bank accounts. These are people that were living hand to mouth. They were doing informal jobs and they were selling on the streets,” he said.
Speaking to the media, Zimbabwe’s consul-general to Johannesburg, Melody Chaurura, confirmed receiving a report on the incident.
“We received such a report from the deceased’s relatives although we did not get finer details of how the tragic development unfolded. The Consulate is facilitating the repartition of the deceased’s mortal remains to Zimbabwe as the requests are received. Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and relatives of the deceased during this difficult time,” she was quoted as saying.