Expired biscuits: Trauma at kids’ deaths, questions surround spaza shop

Trouble brews as residents call for foreign shop owners to leave.

The community of Naledi in Soweto, where three children have died after eating biscuits with an alleged expired sell-by date bought from a local Somalian shop, are still in shock.

Two died on Sunday, while another was believed to have died yesterday and a fourth is in an intensive care unit in hospital.

In the street where the children were living, tensions were still high yesterday.

Residents attacked a local councillor after he suggested the community must wait for a postmortem before calling for the foreign spaza owners to leave.

The councillor was also against acts of violence on spaza shops owned by foreign nationals, which angered the community and resulted in him having to be escorted to safety by the police.

The spaza where the children allegedly bought the biscuits has been closed since Sunday and no one knows where the owner went.

READ: Two grade 1 pupils die after eating poisonous biscuits in Soweto

The owner of the house where the spaza shop operates from is also missing.

Steven Manamela, a resident who knows all the children, said they wanted all the foreign shops closed in the area.

“We are waiting for the postmortem, but we do not want the Somalians here.

“We do not want to loot their shops, we just want them to leave in peace,” Manamela said.

“The problem is homeowners allowing them to rent in their yards are refusing for these people to leave. It’s painful what has happened to these children.”

With tears in her eyes, Nthabiseng Khang, the aunt of Neo Khang, four, who has died and another child still in hospital, said the children went to buy biscuits at a local Somalian spaza and shared them among themselves.

“Around 10pm, they started vomiting. We tried to ask them what was happening but Neo could not speak. They started becoming weak and their eyes started changing and Neo’s skin started going pink,” Khang said.

“We called a neighbour to take him to Zola clinic but they didn’t see that he had died. We think he might have passed away on our way there. We are very sad that he died this young. He was a bubbly child, a child that loved laughing; kind, very respectful,” she said.

She said the owner of the shop had not visited the families, but they had heard rumours that he wanted to take the two children who were in a government hospital to a private hospital.

“We also heard that they wanted to pay for the funerals of those who died. We have failed to confront them because they ran away and no one knows where they are,” Khang said.

“We have not heard anything from the owners of the house where these people were renting. They have not even come to us.”

The Citizen also visited the home of Leon ‘Captain’ Jele, who died after he allegedly ate the biscuits. His grandfather, Tshepo Williams, said it was painful the way the family had lost his grandson.

Williams said the child was with his two sisters walking home from a room that his mother rented in Naledi when he fell and complained his legs were painful.

“A good Samaritan found the kid lying down. He picked him up and asked his two sisters to show him where they were staying.

“They brought him here and his other grandfather tried to resuscitate him. His pulse was low. We ran to a neighbour to ask for a car so we could rush him to the hospital,” Williams said.

“Within 10 minutes, the doctor called us and told us he was no more. Before the police could arrive, the doctor told us she suspected the child was poisoned.”

He said while they were waiting for the police, another family rushed into the hospital.

“The mother said her child had just died. We then found out that her son was with Captain when they ate biscuits bought at a local Somailian shop and ate together with all those in hospital.”

Williams said he would not fight the shop owner without proof the biscuits were the reason for his grandson’s death.

“If the postmortem finds the biscuits were the reason, I will fight the government because they are allowing them to operate in an unregulated manner.”

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