'Filthy' East London creche closed after two babies die

Ezam Makhabane, aged five, died under mysterious circumstances last Tuesday while under the care of a creche in Southernwood.
Ezam Makhabane, aged five, died under mysterious circumstances last Tuesday while under the care of a creche in Southernwood.

Grief and mystery surround the deaths of two East London infants on one day — and within hours of each other — at an unregistered crèche in Southernwood.

Two families are demanding answers after babies, Ezam Makhabane, aged five months, and Kwahlelwa Ndongeni, aged six months, died at the crèche last Tuesday.

Provincial health department head Dr Rolene Wagner said the babies had been declared dead on arrival at Frere Hospital.

The families said the babies had died at the crèche sometime between noon and mid-afternoon.

No ambulances were called and the owner of crèche did not call the parents to inform them of the deaths, the families said.

Eastern Cape department of social development spokesperson Mzukisi Solani said the unregistered crèche was shut on Wednesday after social workers found it was filthy and lacked an educational programme.

They recommended closure as the place was a health hazard.

It is not clear what condition the infants were in when they were taken to Frere Hospital, one by a cab sometime after noon, and the second by the same cab which was recalled by the owner for the delivery of a second child to the hospital.

Kwahlelwa Ndongeni, aged six, died at a Southernwood creche last Tuesday.
Kwahlelwa Ndongeni, aged six, died at a Southernwood creche last Tuesday.

When DispatchLIVE visited the crèche on Monday and Tuesday it was business as usual.

About 20 children, younger than five were playing in the crèche house which has no playground.

When contacted for comment, the owner confirmed the “incidents” and that the crèche took care of 30 children.

She would not comment on the registration status of the crèche or what happened.

“This is a difficult time for us but I will tell you everything once I receive the autopsy reports from the police,” she said.

Ezam’s grieving father, Khanya Makhabane said: “This is painful because the woman [owner] is not telling us what happened before my baby was taken to hospital, and why she didn’t call an ambulance.

“She didn’t tell us that there was another child of almost the same age who died at almost the same time. We won’t rest until we get answers.”

His wife, Millie, said: “I’m devastated. I find it difficult to move on because on the day the babies died, the crèche was still open as if nothing had happened.

The woman never bothered to call us about the news, instead, we were called by a doctor at the hospital.

On arrival, the doctor told us the baby was already dead when she arrived at the hospital.

He asked us if the child looked sick that morning and I said no because she was in good spirits when we left her there.”

The Ndongeni family buried their baby in Lusikisiki on Monday.

Grandmother Ncediswa Mqikela said: “We have many more questions than answers. This woman is not forthcoming with information.

It is also concerning that, after the incidents, the crèche is still operational. Both babies were just fine when they were left at the facility on the day.”

When DispatchLIVE visited the créche on Monday most of the children were not wearing mask and were playing in the lounge area while three caregivers were going about their chores in other parts of the building.

The women referred DispatchLIVE to the owner. On Tuesday, children were still seen playing in the lounge. The caregivers said the owner was not available.

Provincial police confirmed an inquest was investigated.

Daron Mann talks to the devastated mother of 5-month-old Ezam Makhabane and the aunt of 6-month-old Kwahlelwa Ndongeni, the two babies who died in an East London daycare centre on the same day, about the trauma and uncertainty their families are facing. The parents are yet to find out the truth about what transpired and took their babies' lives. The babies died within hours of each other a month ago. Autopsy reports are awaited to ascertain the causes of their deaths.

Spokesperson Brig Tembinkosi Kinana said the Makhabanes were called to the hospital at 16.30pm last Tuesday. 

He said the crèche owner was also at the hospital at the time when the doctor reported the death to the parents.

Kinana said: “In a separate incident, it is alleged that the grandmother of the six-month-old [infant] received a call from her neighbour informing her that she must not go to the crèche as the child was in hospital.

“She rushed to the hospital and on her arrival met a doctor who told her that the child had already passed away.

“When she asked the principal she said the child was well from the morning session and there were no signs of sickness but in the afternoon she noticed that the [child] was not moving.

“The child was rushed to the hospital and was later reported to have passed on.” 



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