never again

Bernika

Bhekizwe Mncube, his mother & his late uncle Reynock

A desperate search

Reynock Mncube liked to wear jeans and sneakers. This photo was taken on one of his visits to the family in Soweto. ‘Reynock said these were his special going out clothes,’ recalls Bhekizwe.

Reynock suffered from mental illness from an early age. He was diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia and lived at Life Esidimeni Randfontein for many years. His family visited him often. ‘Reynock remembered many of his relatives and always asked after us. So we took turns to visit him.’

Around June 2015 Bhekizwe was informed that Life Esidimeni Randfontein was going to be closed and patients moved to other facilities. The family were worried. The social worker said Reynock would be moved to ‘somewhere in Pretoria’ and she didn’t know what it would be like. ‘I am the sole breadwinner,’ says Bhekizwe. ‘I stay with my mother, grandmother, partner and two children in a four-roomed house. I work as a general assistant and cleaner at Mofolo Library in Soweto. Pretoria was too far for us to afford to visit him. What if he was put in a place that was unsafe and we weren’t able to check in on him?’

So the family decided it would be best for Reynock to be discharged into their care. They would take a chance and try it for two months. ‘It felt like we were left with no choice really, but to bring Reynock home. But when Reynock came back it was more difficult than we thought. It was often really hard to predict his behaviour and control him.’

On 28 April 2016 Reynock went missing. ‘I got back from work and no one had seen him slip out. I looked for him everywhere. I went to Meadowlands, Orlando and Zola. I checked Baragwanath and Helen Joseph hospitals. I opened a missing person’s report. I even went to mortuaries. I didn’t sleep from worry. But we couldn’t find him.‘

Finally, a month later, Bhekizwe went to the HIllbrow Forensic Unit and looked through photographs. The images were terrible; victims of stabbing and burns. And there he found a photograph of Reynock. He was lying on the grass looking up. He was dead.

‘The officer told me that they had found Reynock’s body on 1 May in Robertsham. I was so suprised. Robertsham is very far from my house,’ Reynock says.

The family have been deeply affected by Reynock’s terrible death. ‘We had no option but to take him home,’ says Bhekizwe. ‘We were forced to take him when patients were being moved. We did our best. But he clearly needed to be supervised more than was possible for us. ‘