African tradition of 'force-feeding' kills four toddlers

2016-08-19 16:35

Johannesburg - A two-year-old girl choked to death after allegedly being force-fed the "traditional" way by her mother in Soweto, police said on Friday.

Nqobile Mlambo was struggling to eat after she was accidentally burnt with boiling water in her home in Moroka on July 12, Constable John Serala said.

"It is believed the child was sitting under the table. She pulled down the tablecloth and then the kettle of boiling water fell on her."

Ntombi Mlambo, 25, took her daughter to her local clinic. When she brought her back home, she tried to force-feed her using a traditional African method. The child suffocated. 

Serala said another three such cases had been reported to Moroka police since December last year.

"The traditional feeding requires a certain skill. Not everyone can do it. It is normally just the grandmothers who can do it," he said.

The mother needs to sit down flat on the ground, legs stretched out in front of her, holding the child on her lap, Serala said. She tilts the child’s head back. One hand is cupped under the mouth and the other is used to hold the nose closed. Mouthfulls of food are pressed into the mouth. Only when the child has swallowed is the nose opened.

It is usually done for children between one and two years old, Tsonga, Venda and Pedi traditions.

"It is not like the mothers were intentionally trying to kill their children, they are just a bit negligent," Serala said.

No arrests had been made and police had opened inquest cases.

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