never again

Luleka and Eunice Kunjwa (standing)  and their late sister Maureen

Luleka and Eunice Kunjwa (standing)  and their late sister Maureen

How could it happen?

Once a year every October, all 16 family members;  Luleka, Eunice, siblings, children, cousins and grandchildren, piled into a hired mini bus. It was Maureen’s birthday and they were heading off to celebrate with her. From a young age Maureen couldn’t speak and she was living at Life Esidimeni Randfontein, where she needed full-time care.  “At the home they would put out tables for us, and we would spread out with cake, cooldrinks and music to celebrate. Maureen always danced. She loved to dance. She was lively and happy. She knew she had a family who loved her,” Luleka her younger sister remembers.

Luleka and Eunice grew up in Vlakfontein. “Our family lived on a mine where my dad worked as a male nurse. But in 1973, when I was 14-years-old, he died and we were chased off,” Luleka recalls. Luleka, her mother and five siblings were left homeless and so the children were all sent to stay with different relatives. “I went to live with my aunt,” Luleka recalls, “but Maureen stayed with my mom."

“For many years, my mom tried to care for her. They lived with our father’s sister.  Mom couldn’t get a proper job and survived doing piece work. I don’t know how she coped. Maureen couldn’t speak but my mom taught her to feed and wash herself.”

Then in 1975, at 20 years old, Maureen was finally admitted to Life Esidimeni in Randfontein where she stayed for many years. Luleka tried to visit her often. “Maureen always came home for Christmas.”

In February 2026 the family got an SMS to say that Maureen was being relocated to Takalani. But when Luleka went to Takalani they wouldn’t let her in. “I was surprised, because when I went to visit her at Randfontein, they would welcome me and I would go into the wards.” Finally, when they brought Maureen into the reception area, Luleka  was completely shocked.

“Maureen was standing like a statue. She was haggard and thin. She didn’t’ smile. She had lost so much weight and she looked very dehydrated. It was so difficult, because Maureen did not speak, so she couldn’t tell us what had happened."

Luleka was so worried about Maureen, that she made a plan to visist her sister every two days. She was always instructed to wait at reception and Maureen was brought to her. But each time she just seemed to be getting worse. The sister told her she didn’t know what was wrong.

Three weeks later Maureen was taken to hospital. They said she had been vomiting but they couldn’t tell her what the problem was.

Maureen spent the next months in and out of hospital. One time Luleka and her niece arrived at Takalani and they said they didn’t know where Maureen was. Luleka panicked. Her niece was furious. “You don’t know where she is?” she shouted at the sister. “You took her to the hospital and you say we must go and look for her. Where must we go. Find her!”

Lululeka finally found her sister at Baragwanath. She had an injury just above her eye and there were bruises on her body and hip.”  On 24 October Maureen passed away. They said it was from a brain injury.

Maureen depended on the care that was provided by the state. Her family did not have the means to move her. “My sister was not taken care of at Takalani. She had been healthy and happy at Randfontein for 41 years. She only stayed there for seven months, and she died thereafter. “

Luleka is angry. “Maureen was murdered. We want to know why?  Why did this happen? If they hadn’t moved her like this she would still be alive. Maureen was healthier than me. I always thought she would outlive me. The government that we have elected, did not treat my sister very well.”