never again

Jabu Nqgondwane with her late son Vuyo

Jabu Nqgondwane with her late son Vuyo

‘That is not my son’

Christian Nqgondwane smiles when he tells us that his late son Vuyo  ‘was a good looking boy. He doesn’t look like me.’ But him and his wife Jabu, want to cry when they look at the photo of their son after he had been moved to Cullinan. ‘I said that is not my son.  He was so very, very thin.’

Vuyo was Jabu and Christian’s firstborn child. He was unable to do anything for himself and was admitted to Life Esidimeni in 1992. They tried to visit him every weekend. And every Christmas they took their son home for the holidays.  

In June 2016, Vuyo was moved from Life Esidimeni Randfontein to Cullinan Care and Rehabilitation Centre. They were told that he had been moved to Takalani in Soweto. But when they went there, their son wasn’t there. They went back and forth asking for help.  ‘We don’t know where our son is,’ they asked repeatedly. Eventually they found Vuyo at the Cullinan Care and Rehabilitation Centre, a long way from Soweto, past Pretoria.

On the 7 February 2017, they received a call. The person said that Vuyo was dead.  She said that Vuyo had gone to bed active as always but died during the night.

The Ngqondwanes’ borrowed R500 from a neighbour to get from Soweto to Cullinan as fast as they could. A journey an hour and a half away.

The staff at Cullinan told them Vuyo had died of ‘aspiration pneumonia’.  No one explained to them what that was.  But later a pathologist’s report revealed that in Vuyo’s stomach was ‘what appeared to be part of an orange plastic bag or plastic sheet’.  Was Vuyo so hungry that he swallowed the contents of the plastic and the container, choked and died?

“I am a citizen of this country.  I’m born and bred here. But my heart will never be at peace with Qedani Mahlangu until she tells us why she had to do this traumatic thing to the citizens of this country. At Randfontein Vuya was well off. He was fat. Why did they take him to Cullinan to be killed?” says Christian.