never again

Bertha Molefe with her late daughter Sophia Molefe

Bertha Molefe with her late daughter Sophie Molefe

They tried to shut me up

‘My Sophie is gone. And when I look at this photo of my beautiful daughter, my heart is dead,’ says her mother, Bertha Molefe.

Sophie Manyana Molefe, was Bertha’s last born. She had been diagnosed with schizophrenia soon after she finished school. She was only 21 years old when she overdosed on her medication.

‘She was alright when she was on her treatment,’ Bertha remembers. She had been cared for at Life Esidimeni Witpoortjie and Bertha visited her every month.

‘Sophie would always tell me she was happy there. It was clean and she ate nice food and they treated her well.’

Take her home

But Sophie was moved to Life Esidimeni Randfontein. One day in May 2016 when Bertha was visiting her, they told her she must take Sophie with her. Bertha was shocked.

‘Do you see these papers?’ the nurse said. ‘The centre is going to be closed. She is well she can do things for herself.’

‘I said this is my child, I know her. She needs a safe place and special care,’ Bertha pleaded.

Bertha had known the terror of Sophie running away many times. She had seen her aggressive behaviour when she wasn’t taking her medication correctly. But they didn’t give Bertha a choice. She must take her daughter home.

When Bertha arrived the following week to fetch Sophie she demanded to see the nurse. ‘I wanted her to explain about the tablets, how must I give these to her. I could also see there were only a few tablets.‘

Bertha was forced to leave with Sophie, with too little medication and no medical records.

Things at home became very difficult. ‘The tablets they gave me ran out and the clinic wouldn’t give me more.’ Sophie became very aggressive.

When the story about Life Esidimeni broke in the news, Bertha spoke out on Checkpoint. She told them how difficult it was for her. Dr Makgabo Manamela, Director of Mental health, called her soon afterwards.

‘Mama I see you on TV. Don’t you worry I will take Sophie to a safe place. I will see she gets her medications,‘ Bertha remembers. ‘So I relaxed. She said she would help me. But they did nothing. Manamela just wanted me to shut up. She didn’t want to help me at all. And I believed her.’

One day in September, Bertha got a call that something was wrong and dashed home. There was foam coming out of Sophie’s mouth and she realized Sophie had eaten too many tablets. She called the ambulance but it didn’t arrive. She ran out of the house and asked a boy on the street to please help her. His brother had a car and drove them to Leratong Hospital.

“They treated her well at the hospital. I thought that she was going to recover. But two weeks later Sophie passed on,’ Bertha recalls. ‘There was a little boy in my street that Sophie used to play hide and seek with. For weeks he asked me. “Where is Sophie? Why is she not coming back?”

Bertha stares at the photo of Sophie for a long time. ’When I look at this, I feel such great anger. They killed my beautiful child and gave me money. I am still waiting for justice.’