Toxic Wild Plant Kills 2 Boys

Kebaegetse Tsholofelo. PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
Kebaegetse Tsholofelo. PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE

SAMANE: The small community of Samane, which is approximately 36 kilometres west of Jwaneng, is mourning the death of two boys, after they ate a poisonous wild plant.

Even though it was The Monitor team’s first visit to the tiny village the team did not struggle to locate the two boys’ family as their demise has left the whole community in shock. 

After travelling from Gaborone through the Trans Kalahari highway, our real journey started in Jwaneng where the team had stopped to ask for directions to Samane.

The first encounter was with an old man who was hitchhiking to Mokhomma village about 12km preceding our destination.

After greeting and introducing ourselves to the old man we asked for the directions to Samane and the first thing that the septuagenarian said was, “Ehe le babega dikgang, le utule ka dikgang tse di maswe tsa bana baba jeleng mogau, ke tsone tse ledi elang Samane?” asked Molale Nthomang, 78, before giving us the directions to the troubled village.

We gave Nthomang a lift and dropped him at Mokhomma as we proceeded with our journey to Samane.

Despite the bumpy gravel road our journey to Mokhomma was short as the old man shared with us how they used to survive on wild fruits, but they are no longer comfortable with eating them as majority of them are similar to poisonous ones.

“I heard those boys died after eating mogau, a poisonous wild plant which they confused with legaba. Gake itse gore ba rutilwe legaba ke mang e le bana bale kana.

We used to eat legaba back in the days when looking after livestock in the bush. That plant has a lot of water, we ate it as part of drinking water when thirsty in the bush,” Nthomang said.

Asked if legaba was still available in their area, Nthomang said it is in abundance on the outskirts of the village. But he stated that they were no longer comfortable with eating the fruit because it is similar to some poisonous wild plants like mogau.

Nthomang said legaba is like serowa wild fruit that used to be more common in the Central District of the country, especially in Serowe, hence the village was named after the plant.

“That Serowe initially was serowa, that village was named after the wild plant because they were more popular that side. Legaba plant is underground but it is not that deep as it takes few diggings to discover it just like serowa,” he said.

Before parting ways with Nthomang he emphasised the need for parents to alert their children on the dangers of looking for wild plants on their own because majority of them (plants) are more similar to poisonous ones.

Upon arriving at the mourning family next to the village kgotla we found that preparations for the boys’ burials that were held yesterday (Sunday) were ongoing.

The family’s representative, Kebaagetse Tsholofelo said the death of the two boys came as a shock because they were not aware they had gone to the bush.

“It was during elections day (October 23rd) when the two boys and the other three who escaped death sneaked out to the bush when we were out to vote and ate the poisonous plant.

They were five in number and they all ate the poisonous wild plant confusing it with legaba. We suspect they might have eaten motjatja, a poisonous wild plant because it is similar to legaba,” she explained.

Tsholofelo added that when questioning them, the boys said they had gone to the bush to eat borokhu.

She said they told her that after eating they got thirsty and one of them, who resides at the cattle post and is currently fighting for his life at Jwaneng primary hospital, suggested to them to look for legaba and drink its water.

Tsholofelo said her sister explained that one of the victims could not walk properly as he was dragging his feet. 

“The deceased’s mother said it was late in the evening when his son arrived home sick. A re ngwana o tile a ikgoga, a tsewa ke sedidi, bare one a kgwa a tshabisega mme ba tsaya gore o telwa ke flu.

Later on another survivor also arrived home showing similar signs. The parents questioned the boys and they explained to have eaten wild plants,” she said.

Tsholofelo revealed that they took the children to a local clinic the following day where they were later referred to Jwaneng primary hospital, but one of them lost his life on the way to the medical facility.

She said that whilst on the way they heard that another boy also from the same family had similar symptoms. Tsholofelo added that whilst observing the one who was still fighting for his life at the hospital they received the news that yet another one had lost his life.

“Bana ba ba tlhokafetseng ba botlhe ke bana babo nnake (All the boys who lost their lives are my younger sisters’ children).

We are still in shock as we do not know what might have influenced them to go to the bush that day because they hardly go anywhere,” said Tsholofelo.

“Their deaths shocked the whole village. We nearly lost all the five boys, but luckily one of them survived and he was discharged from the hospital on Thursday. He was discharged with another one from another family and only one is still in hospital.”

Meanwhile, Jwaneng police station commander, superintendent Thuso Basuti confirmed that his office was investigating the incident.

Basuti said he received the report on the matter on Friday, adding that investigations were ongoing and they have taken samples of the said wild plants to the laboratory for further tests.

“We received the report that five boys ate a poisonous wild plant which they confused with legaba, an eatable nonpoisonous plant. The boys were referred to Jwaneng primary hospital for medical attention. Their ages range between 11 and 14,” Basuti explained.

“On Thursday the family lost a12-year-old boy and whilst in shock on Friday another one, 11- years-old also passed away living three fighting for their lives in hospital with similar symptoms.

The other two were later discharged from the hospital leaving the one who is recuperating even though he is still experiencing symptoms of ill health.”

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