Three Durban teens have died and 32 were admitted to hospital after suffering symptoms of poisoning allegedly from a new form of ecstasy also known as “Mercedes”.
Scores of teens in KwaMashu had been celebrating at a term-end party and apparently spent the night drinking, smoking and taking drugs.
The Daily News understands the teens had gone to a tavern in KwaMashu’s E-section before moving on to a “slaughterhouse” – places where the youth gather to take drugs.
A reliable police source told the Daily News that KwaMashu police had on Tuesday evening received two inquest dockets relating to deaths from drug overdose. These were in addition to a suspected drug death officially confirmed by police on Tuesday.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokesman Major Thulani Zwane had earlier confirmed that police had opened an inquest docket after the death of Siyabonga Mngadi, 19.
Mngadi, of K-section KwaMashu, died early on Saturday morning after taking what were believed to have been ecstasy pills.
Zwane urged parents to come forward and open cases related to the incident.
The Hawks were also now investigating the case.
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Social Development Weziwe Thusi said on Wednesday morning that the department would be sending 15 social workers and two managers to assist affected families.
The social workers, said Thusi, would “conduct home visits as well as hospital visits to those who are still in hospital”.
“We want to understand what happened to ensure that we do everything in our power to avoid a repeat. We also want to assist the families in dealing with this tragedy.”
She put the number of youngsters admitted to hospital at 32, but it was not immediately clear how many were still receiving treatment nor their condition.
A medical professional wrote on Facebook that more than 34 drug-related incidents had been handled at the King Dinuzulu (King George) Hospital in Sydenham, and KwaMashu Poly Clinic at the weekend.
Mngadi’s family said they were heartbroken at his death.
His cousin, Khanyisile Mngadi said they got a call at about 3am, telling them there “was a problem” with Siyabonga. Her brother was told by a friend that Siyabonga was lying on the ground not far from their home. Khanyisile said her brother had found Mngadi’s body “cold”.
The teen’s friends, who had also taken drugs, refused to believe he was dead, arguing that he might look dead and be taken to the mortuary, yet still be alive. They took him to the local clinic. Mngadi’s 12-year-old sister was devastated by the death, said Khanyisile.
The funeral had been planned for Thursday, but has been postponed to the first weekend of April to allow for a post mortem.
The Daily News’s sister paper, Isolezwe, reported on Wednesday that teens suffering symptoms of drug poisoning had also been taken to Chatsworth’ RK Khan, St Mary’s in Mariannhill and Crompton Hospital.
The paper put the death toll from the drug poisoning at five, but this could not be confirmed.
A parent who asked not to be named told Isolezwe her daughter had been admitted to King Dinuzulu with drug poisoning symptoms.
The girl, who attends a KwaMashu school, arrived home early on Saturday. She appeared to have “lost her mind” and was hallucinating.
She was taken to KwaMashu Poly Clinic at about 4am and she was later transferred to King Dinuzulu. According to the mother, nurses told her other children had been brought in with similar symptoms.
A 19-year-old acquaintance of Mngadi and who spoke to the Daily News on condition of anonymity, said “lots of others” had been admitted to the KwaMashu Poly Clinic at the weekend.
She said ecstasy was easily available in her comunity and was sold by dealers, who milled around taverns and at KwaMashu’s “slaughterhouses”.
The teen said she had quit taking ecstasy, after nearly dying from drug poisoning about a month ago, and had to be rushed to hospital by her parents.
She said a variety were available, with the popular ones in her area known as “Mercedes”, “rice”, “biscuit” and “casket”. The drug is also known as “idada” (which means duck). The names refer to the appearance of the pills.
The teen, a former Model C school pupil, said she had started using ecstasy when she was 16. “My body was not functioning well, I couldn’t swallow food and I was losing a lot of weight,” she said.
Meanwhile a picture doing the rounds on social media, purportedly shows the pictures of four victims of the KwaMashu tragedy, accompanied by a message in Zulu which says, “Rest in Peace” and that the deaths from drug taking were very sad.
No names were supplied with the pictures and their authenticity could not be verified at the time of publication.
Education Department spokesman Sihle Mlotshwa said that the department had a number of programmes in place which encouraged children to live clean lives.
He said life orientation classes also equipped pupils with coping skills.
The MEC said: “I am shocked by this tragedy especially because we are constantly warning about the dangers of substance abuse in our public engagements.”
She said social workers often take our substance abuse awareness programmes to local schools.
“The local drug action committee in KwaMashu is fully functional and it has its monthly meeting today. I would like to see our communities working with this committee to fight this scourge,” said Thusi.
“I wish to call on parents to take note of strange behaviours in their children and seek help before it is too late. I would also like to caution young people against drug induced fun, it leads to tragedy as we have witnessed in this case,” she said.
Sam Pillay, director of the Anti Drug Forum SA, who had just come back from a launch in Pietermaritzburg, said last week they were in discussions to open anti drug clubs in the Inanda, Ntuzuma and Kwa-Mashu area, extending from the forum’s clubs in Phoenix.
“We need to get a sample of the drug sold in the area to conduct a toxicology report. It’s a rare incident and I hope to get into the bottom of it through the police.
“This should be a wake up call to other people consuming drugs that there are hidden dangers. More monitoring needs to be done on school closure dates,” Pillay said. – Additional reporting by Zainul Dawood