Everson Luhanga

The parents of Shonisani Lethole have no doubt that Tembisa hospital starved their son to death, and that the hospital has lied and is continuing to lie about what happened.

The hospital says Shonisani – who died in June 2020 – fell to Covid.

But his parents say their 35-year-old son was starved to death.

On Wednesday many of the Letholes’ suspicions were confirmed by the Health Ombud’s investigation into Shonisani’s death. The report, by Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, found a trail of negligence, sloppiness and dishonesty by the hospital.

It even took 10 hours and 15 minutes for a doctor to certify that Shonisani had died.

Shonisani’s father Albert Lethole says Tembisa hospital must admit his son was starved to death and stop putting out false information.

“I took my son to the hospital for chest and back pains only to be told he had died of Covid-19,” said Albert.

“I don’t believe that story. We have not had any Covid-19 test results until today.”

Albert said he got a call from his son from the hospital bed to say that he was not being given food.

“It was heartbreaking. My wife and I took food to him, before they placed him in another ward where we were not allowed to see him anymore. That’s where he was put on an oxygen machine and not given food,” he said.

The Makgoba report tells a similar story – with forensic detail.

“So, for 100 hours, 54 minutes of his total stay of 153 hours, 54 minutes (65.6% of the time of his stay)… Mr. Shonisani Lethole did not receive any meals on two separate occasions. The health establishment and its management must shoulder the accountability and responsibility for these failures,” it says.

The report dwells on Shonisani’s viral tweet before he died, which triggered an online #JusticeforSZhoni campaign. “@DrZweliMkhize Mkhize can I respond to your tweets if the problems I have at one of your facilities continues it is becoming unbearable, and they don’t seem to care. Didn’t eat for 48 hours.”

The Makgoba report declares the tweet “credible and truthful” and hospital evidence that meals were provided “to be without foundation”.

Shonisani’s mother Patricia said Shonisani was a big Orlando Pirates fan and a great cook.

As a young boy, he showed his gentle soul. “He used to go to play soccer but ended up guarding the jerseys and clothes of the players on the field,” she said.

Despite the devastating findings by Professor Makgoba, and recommendations of disciplinary action, the hospital wants to challenge the investigation’s findings.

The Gauteng Health Department has signalled it’s not coming to the hospital’s rescue.

“Anyone intending to challenge the Ombud report, does so in their own capacity,” it said.

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