Dying for a job: Bongiwe Mbatha (29)

2013-02-03 09:59

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The tragic deaths of eight people in a fitness test for aspirant traffic officers have been forgotten all too soon. Sphumelele Mngoma revisits their stories.

Last Friday, Luyanda Mavimbela turned eight. But he had little to celebrate as it was his first birthday without his mother.

When his family received news of her death, Luyanda was sat down and it was explained to him. At his mother’s funeral he saw her body lying in the casket.

“He asked if she would ever come back. When we said no, he said maybe it would be better for him to stab himself. I had to convince him he would be okay and the pain would pass,” said Luyanda’s aunt Nokuthula Mbatha.

But after a month without her sister, Nokuthula feels like a lousy liar. “I don’t know if the pain will (ever) go away. We were close. The mention of her name still brings such pain.”

Mbatha’s mother was too distraught to speak.

Nokuthula said her sister left for Pietermaritzburg on December 26.

The last message she received from her sister was at 12pm the day of the race. Mbatha complained about the heat.

Her family says she collapsed as she was about to cross the finish line.

“I feel that had there been doctors there to check the people’s medical fitness, my sister’s death could have been avoided,” Mbatha’s brother, Linda, said.

Besides Mbatha being the breadwinner, her family says she was also the family’s bedrock.

“She worked as a receptionist but managed to stretch that money to support a family of nine. Whether I was working or not, I knew I could count on her,” Linda said.

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