A Johannesburg mother is desperately seeking answers after her two-year-old daughter died after she reportedly ingested rat poison at a Westdene crèche.
Two cases – one of murder and another of culpable homicide – were opened at the Sophiatown police station last month after two children, aged one and two, died after allegedly ingesting rat poison at the illegally run daycare.
On May 17, Antoinette Assegaai (28) laid her two-year-old daughter, Tshepang, to rest after she died from what her mother said was the ingestion of rat poison at the crèche.
Antoinette said she was desperate to find answers for her daughter’s death.
“I want justice and someone to be held responsible for what happened to her,” she told YOU.
The day before Tshepang’s death, her older sister, Shamita (13), fetched her from the crèche and the two children went home where they played while they waited for Antoinette to return from work.
“They must have spent about 15 minutes playing before I got home and everything was fine.
“We had dinner and just after we’d finished eating, Tshepang started crying and had white stuff coming out of her mouth,”Antoinette said.
She immediately took the little girl to the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital in Coronationville.
She was shocked to find the owner of the daycare at the hospital along with another parent whose child had also been admitted for the same ailment.
Sadly, Tshepang died the following day. The other child, whose name isn’t known, died a day later.
“The other mother and I went to the Sophiatown police station to open a case but till this day, we haven’t heard any word from the police or from the crèche owner.
“The owner wasn’t even at my child’s funeral. She sent her husband, who came to ask my permission if she could come and see me some time,” a despondent Antoinette said.
She added that an autopsy report from the Hillbrow mortuary confirmed Tshepang had ingested rat poison.
Antoinette described her daughter as a friendly and intelligent little girl.
“Her English was very good and she was super clever. She’d greet everyone who passed by,”she said. “It’s really heartbreaking just to think about.’
Antoinette and the other parent are looking for closure.
“We just want to know what happened,”Antoinette said
The member of the mayoral committee (MMC) confirmed to YOU that the autopsy reports confirmed both children died as a result of ingesting rat poison or organophosphate poisoning as stated on the post mortem report.
Siyanda Makhubo, spokesperson for Dr Mpho Phalatse, the Joburg MMC for health and social development, says Phalatse is on a fact-finding mission to uncover the details of the cases.
“We’ll be starting with the police station to find out how far the investigation is because as far as we know two cases, one of murder and another of culpable homicide, have been opened at the police station,” he said.
“We’ll then be going to the preschool, the scene of the crime, to check that it’s been shut down before visiting the families of the two deceased.”
Makhubo added that after doing their own investigation, the Department of Environmental Health discovered that the two cases were linked.
“We found that the preschool was being illegally run from a garage. The owner doesn’t have a permit and the school isn’t compliant with the standards of the City of Johannesburg.
“We can confirm that the deceased are a one-year-old and a two-year-old and that the preschool cared for a group of about 10 children between the ages of six months and five years.”
He added that Phalatse was making it a point to expose illegally operated preschools and hoped to tell the public how to identify them.
Sophiatown police spokesperson Captain Jerbes de Bruyn confirmed that two children from the crèche died last month and that the investigation was under way.
“The investigation is still ongoing, and we’re currently waiting for the results from the toxicology report,” he says.
“Two inquest dockets have been opened and we’re waiting for the results, but this can take long.”
When YOU contacted the owner of the daycare, she said police instructed her not to speak to the media because the case was under investigation.