'Most painful thing ever': Family distraught after man killed while talking to swarm of bees

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Nkosentsha Njimbana died after he was stung to death by a swarm of bees.
Nkosentsha Njimbana died after he was stung to death by a swarm of bees.
Robert Michael/picture alliance via Getty Images
  • An Eastern Cape man was stung to death while talking to a swarm of bees he believed to be his ancestors.
  • A traditional expert believes the incident demonstrated the ancestors' wrath.
  • According to an expert, beekeepers or bee removers must be called out in such a situation.

An Eastern Cape family is devastated by the death of one of their relatives last month after he was attacked by a swarm of bees he believed to be his ancestors.

A traditional expert believes the incident demonstrated the ancestors' wrath.

Nkosentsha Njimbana,58, died at his Zalara home outside Qonce on 4 November. At the time of the incident, Njimbana was talking to the bees during a traditional ceremony.

The ceremony, known as ukugxotha iinyosi (dispersing bees), was performed a week after the bees had arrived and gathered at one of the family's rondavel huts, according to the deceased's younger brother, Mandla.

READ Hundreds of thousands of bees sting man to death

In some African cultures, it is believed that ancestors visit their living relatives in the form of bees or water monitor lizards to warn the family to clear outstanding traditional rituals.

Mandla said his brother understood that the settling of the bees on the property meant he was being visited by his ancestors and that they had a message for him. 

Tamara police along the N2 road outside Qonce have opened an inquest docket for investigation after a man got stung to death by bees.

He said his brother consulted a sangoma and returned with answers. However, while he was busy telling the bees he would address all outstanding rituals in due time, he came under attack.

"This is the most painful thing ever to befall our family. We don't understand why they were so angry with him, yet he had welcomed them to his home. He never tried to violently chase them away," Mandla said.

According to Inkolo Kantu Traditional Organisation spokesperson and traditional expert Loyiso Nqevu, once a water monitor lizard or bees enter a home, it is very important for the family in question to spring into action and look for answers from traditional healers to get a better understanding of what type of ceremony needs to be performed.

READ Swarm of bees attack four people while boating on Kowie River in Port Alfred

Nqevu believes that a failure to decode the correct message might have been the cause of the deadly turn the ceremony had taken at Njimbana's home.

When a swarm of bees visits a Xhosa family, he says, a family leader must first go to the swarm with a glass of soda drink, sugar in a saucer and a glass of brandy. 

These are then placed on the floor where the bees gathered.  

"This is the welcoming ceremony. If you are a Xhosa person, you don't run away and call municipal workers to remove the bees because bees are your visitors," Nqevu  said.

He added:

They are your ancestors. You talk to them and acknowledge their arrival with the gifts and promise to return to them in due course while you go to find out the purpose of their visit.

The family would then be required to make umqombothi (traditional beer), which normally takes four days to get ready, and then return to the bees with it, he added.

The leader of the family would then humble himself before the bees and sincerely swear to them that he would perform all outstanding rituals. He would even ask them to give him a few months to save for the ceremonies, which often cost a lot of money.

READ Family in serious condition after swarm of bees attacks them in Mpumalanga

Nqevu said the bees were supposed to fly away after the ceremony at Njimbana's home.

But the family might have been hasty to get them to disperse without truly making an effort to understand the ancestors' message.

He pointed out that ancestors sometimes get angry when they see that a person makes endless promises but fails to act. 

READ Man in critical condition after sustaining more than 100 bee stings in Joburg

Eastern Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Thembinkosi Kinana said Tamara police opened an inquest docket.

"It is alleged that on 4 November 2022, at approximately 17:00, a 58-year-old man was at the traditional ceremony at Luthuli homestead, Zalara Village in Tamara, to chase away a swarm of bees. A ritual was done next to the river, and the family returned home and were chased by bees.

"The 58-year-old male was stung by the bees to death," he said.

Meanwhile, the Buffalo City Metro municipality has urged people to call its marine and zoo unit or professional bee removers to safely remove bees from their homes. 

The metro's general manager for marine and zoo amenities, Siani Tinley, said professional bee removers or beekeepers were the only answer.

"Both animals and people get killed from too many bee stings, and bees get quite aggressive very fast when an inexperienced person uses poison or other substance to remove them. The beekeepers know how to read the bees and how to relocate them in an environmentally friendly way."  

Clinical manager at Cecilia Makiwane Hospital, Dr Luvuyo Bayeni, said bee sting venom contains a complex mixture of proteins, such as phospholipase, which has an effect on blood clotting.

A bee sting is followed by pain and swelling at the sting site and it can be fatal within half an hour if there's no medical emergency interventions, Bayeni said.

"Life-threatening allergic reactions can cause difficulty in breathing, tongue swelling, nausea and unconsciousness, referred to as anaphylaxis," Bayeni added.

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