Society must tolerate people with mental problems, says family of slain Soweto woman

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Collen Sello and Taelo Dipholo, in court for murder.
Collen Sello and Taelo Dipholo, in court for murder.
Ntwaagae Seleka
  • The family of a mentally ill Soweto woman who was killed after being accused of witchcraft has pleaded with society to tolerate people with mental problems.
  • Jostina Sangweni, 59, who suffered from schizophrenia, was assaulted and set alight by a mob in Mapetla, Soweto.
  • Her family claimed the lack of knowledge towards people with mental illness had led to Sangweni's brutal death.

"Mental health is a societal problem with many lacking the understanding of the illness."

An emotional Jabulani Moagi has pleaded with members of society to accept that people with mental problems are human beings who have the right to life. 

Moagi lost his mother-in-law, Jostina Sangweni, 59, who was assaulted and torched by a mob in Mapetla, Soweto, on 26 March.

Sangweni died eight days later in hospital.

She suffered from schizophrenia.

Sangweni was accused of witchcraft after being found in a yard in Mapetla.

Her horrific attack was captured on video, which later went viral.

Collen Sello, 27, and co-accused Taelo Dipholo, 28, have since appeared thrice in the Protea Magistrate's Court, facing a murder charge.

The two are expected back in court on 11 May for a formal bail application.

Moagi said the lack of knowledge and intolerance towards people with mental illness had led to Sangweni's brutal death.

"Mental illness is a societal problem. Some people lack an understanding of the illness. We grew up labelling people with mental health as mad people. Our only knowledge of mental health is when somebody eats from dustbins or walking naked.

"We don't understand that stress, depression, anxiety are culminations of mental health. Mental health can affect both children and adults. It is worse with adults because they tend to forget things. They get lost because their minds at the time are not functioning properly," he added.

READ | 'We want more arrests' - family of murdered schizophrenic woman accused of being a witch

"Our mother's attackers did not allow her to tell [them] where she came from. She pleaded for mercy. She asked them to let her call us, and her assailants refused.

"They insulted and continuously attacked her. Her situation could happen to anyone among us. We call on people to understand and accept people with mental problems."

He pleaded with communities to be patient when dealing with those who have mental problems.

"We must listen and refrain from attacking them. We must stop labelling them as witches. Instead of attacking them, we must contact the police, who will assist in tracking down their loved ones.

"If our mother was treated differently, she would be alive today. She was denied an opportunity to enjoy her life," Moagi said. 

Do you want to know more about this topic? Sign up for one of News24's 33 newsletters to receive the information you want in your inbox. Special newsletters are available to subscribers.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
As South Africa faces down the third Covid-19 wave, how are you keeping your family safe ?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Staying at home, isolating and being careful
18% - 316 votes
Sanitising and wearing masks when we go out
69% - 1221 votes
Going on as usual, we're not afraid of the virus
13% - 225 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo