What was supposed to be a jolly time for a Limpopo family ended tragically after five relatives died of Covid-19 related illnesses, one after another, after a meeting ahead of lobola negotiations. Ngwakwana Rabothata, 37, spoke about the tragedy that befell the family following the December 12 gathering at her uncle, Makoba Manamela’s house in Mmotong, outside Polokwane.
Her two sisters, Frida Rabothata, 52, and Moshishi Motloutsi, 46, their mother Sana Rabothata, 71, aunt, Betty Maremane, 80, and Manamela, 61, died days apart after contracting the virus. Rabothata, from Seshego outside Polokwane, said that from her family’s side, she and her late sisters, their mother and Maremane went to Manamela’s house for the gathering where they met with the relatives of her niece, Frida Manamela’s fiancé. The fiancé asked not to be named.
“No words can describe the pain the family experienced. Now we draw strength from the word of God and are trying to cope and soldier on,” said Rabothata
She also tested positive but has since recovered. She said that seven days after the meeting on the 12th of December, Manamela complained of shortness of breath, loss of taste and smell and was vomiting. He was rushed to hospital where he was admitted.
“He was tested and diagnosed with Covid-19 on December 19. He was given necessary medical care and later discharged and told to isolate. He isolated at home for three days and on December 22, he became worse and was taken back to hospital where he died later.”
Manamela was buried on the 24th of December, four days later, her sister Frida Rabothata was rushed to hospital after health complications and later died.
“My sister was asthmatic and had high blood pressure. She was asymptomatic. She was buried on January 2,” said Rabothata.
On January 12, Maremane’s health deteriorated and she was rushed to hospital where she later died. She had attended the funerals of both Manamela and Frida. Maremane’s was Sana Rabothata’s sister. Rabothata said her mother died on the 15th of January, the day Maremane was buried.
“It was in the morning and my 12-year-old daughter told me to come and see Gogo was still sleeping. I went to my mother’s room to investigate and she didn’t wake up or respond and I phoned the ambulance. Upon arrival, paramedics examined her and certified her dead,” Rabothata said, adding that her mother was a friendly person with a fighting spirit.
On the 17th of January, Motloutsi died of Covid-19 related complications. They were buried on the 19th of January.
Rabothata said the family needed counselling as they were still terribly shocked by what had happened.
Frida Manamela, 31, said she was saddened by these events.
“I am heartbroken, left an orphan after my father died of the virus. I am upset that my father will not witness my big day when I walk down the aisle,” she said.
Rabothata’s other sister Shoki Sengwane, 43, who also contracted the virus, said she was heartbroken that she couldn’t bury her mother and her sister because she was in isolation.
“It was a painful experience. I had to be strong. I am now getting better after I was admitted and treated for depression and anxiety,” Sengwane said.
Rabothata, who lost her job last year after the company she worked for was liquidated, has encouraged people to comply with protocols to save lives and pleaded with the community to show them respect and support during this difficult time.
A team of social workers will be dispatched to assist the family that tragically lost five relatives to Covid-19. Social Development MEC, Nkakareng Rakgoale said the social workers will provide psychosocial support services to ensure that the remaining family members cope well.
“The social workers will also conduct an assessment on the economic circumstances … as we are told that some of the victims were pensioners who were providing for their children. The outcome of the assessment will guide us in terms of the social relief of distress that the families might need as an immediate intervention.”
Rakgoale said the department had re-activated 46 teams of Covid-19 psychosocial support teams across the five districts.
Since the beginning of the lockdown, social workers have rendered services to 44,557 people affected and infected with the virus.
The stage that we are in of Covid-19, we are seeing a lot of people who needs medical care and others are losing their lives due to the virus. Therefore the issue of psychosocial support is critical,” said the provincial health spokesperson, Neil Shikwambana.
“We therefore call upon members of the public to contact their nearest hospital so that they can be referred to relevant institutions where they can be provided with such assistance because without them reporting [to us], it will be difficult for us to know and intervene,” he said.