Shattered by the death of his four children who died along with 31 others in a bus accident in the Eastern Cape, Ntaba Mbane could not fathom the thought of breaking the news to his wife Nothabile.
Distraught and afraid, he phoned the women at his church and asked them to tell his wife, Nothabile, 75.
“I waited a while to tell her, I was too scared. I didn’t know how to tell her. They came to our house and they told her that the kids were gone. She broke down and cried,” said the 74-year-old.
His wife was hospitalised on Sunday. Mbane said she was struggling to come to terms with the tragedy.
“They said she has high blood pressure.”
On Monday, Mbane was forced to go to the Butterworth Forensic Mortuary alone. He went to view the bodies of his two sons and two daughters Michael, 34, Ntombiyovuyo, 36, Siyabulela, 38 and Siphokazi, 33.
They died on Saturday along with 31 other people, including a 3-year-old child. The bus they were travelling in reportedly drove off a cliff on the R408, between Butterworth and Willowvale.
‘I lost all my children’
Eastern Cape department of health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo told News24 on Monday that the initial number of deaths had changed because a child had been counted twice. The official death toll was now 35 – 16 men, 16 women and three children, the youngest of whom was 3 years old.
“Words cannot even describe how I am feeling. I am hurt. I lost all of my children,” said Mbane speaking outside the mortuary.
Recounting how he heard the news, Mbane said his children woke up in the morning to do the monthly groceries for the household, which included mielie meal, rice, baking flour and other items.
“The bus picked them up on Saturday at around 07:30 at Gqeza and was heading to Willowvale then to Butterworth. They were going to buy groceries in town like they always do.”
Mbane said he received a call from a relative at around 20:00 informing him his children had died.
“I lost my mind for a moment. I got into the car and drove to the scene and I saw them laying there. All of them, they were gone, just like that.
“There were bodies everywhere, some people you could see they would never have survived. They were all badly hurt.”
Mbane said he went to view the bodies on Monday.
“I have seen three bodies. I am still waiting to view the last one. The three were badly hurt, they have wounds all over, I don’t know how we are going to bury them like that.”
The pensioner said his children were unemployed. He is now left with eight grandchildren to take care of. “I am not sure how we are going to cope. I survive on the pension only,” said Mbane.
Eastern Cape Social Development spokesperson Gcobani Maswana said the department will send social workers to assist the family.
“I cannot imagine the trauma that this particular family is going through. We will send social workers to their home. We are working with the municipality to make sure that families get the help they need,” said Maswana.
Amanda Khoza, News24