Rabies death: Mom wants murder charge

Durban - The mother of a man who died after being bitten by a rabid dog is seeking legal advice to have the owner of the dog prosecuted for murder.

"I had so many hopes for my son. I want this matter to be taken to court so that the owner of the dog can be punished by the law," Nikiwe Majola said in Mariannhill outside Durban on Sunday.

Siyabonga died last Saturday at Durban's RK Khan Hospital after he was bitten by the dog.

Majola said her son was the breadwinner and there was no one else she could rely on. She wanted to open a case of murder against the owner of the dog.

"Our lawyers are working on drafting a law...[for] owners of rabid animals responsible for killing someone to be charged with murder," KwaZulu-Natal Environmental Affairs MEC Meshack Radebe said.

Radebe said he would submit a memo to Cabinet so that Nikiwe Majola could be assisted with legal advice.

"It's painful to us a government. We cannot allow this to go unchallenged. Our legal team is going to be working with the family, we want to test the law to see what will happen if this matter is taken to court," he said.

Radebe said his department had vaccinated 10 000 animals in the province.

"It can't be correct that an animal is more important than a human life," he said.

On Thursday last week Radebe called for the law to be changed so that owners of animals with rabies could be held responsible for the loss of a life.

Attempted murder

"There must be a provision in the legislation to charge people with murder or attempted murder.

"Owners of animals know if their animals have been vaccinated or not. We cannot charge the animals, but we can charge the owners," he said.

Radebe said his department knew of four deaths, but that there could be many more that had not been reported.

"People are not prepared to heed the call to vaccinate their cats and dogs."

Environmental affairs provincial spokesperson Jeffrey Zikhali said Siyabonga Majola was bitten by a dog in mid-June, but only sought treatment at St Mary's Hospital for the bite two days later.

"He was given the tetanus vaccine and immunoglobulin, and the first dose of rabies vaccine," Zikhali said.

"An appointment to attend Tshelenyama clinic was then organised for the remainder of his rabies doses. Some reports indicate he apparently defaulted [on] the follow-up."

Majola was admitted to RK Khan Hospital last Wednesday with left shoulder pain, palpitations, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water).

He failed to respond to treatment and died on Saturday morning.

Four people in KwaZulu-Natal have died from rabies this year.

Zikhali said a sample of the victim's saliva had been sent for testing at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, and that a post mortem would be done.

A four-year-old boy from Umlazi remains in a serious condition at Durban's Clairwood hospital after two infected dogs bit him in April.

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