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Broke Father Poisons Daughter ‘Than Let Her Starve’

Russel Makhubela is alleged to have killed his two-year-old daughter Phiwokuhle. Image: Supplied by the family
Ennerdale father Russel Makhubela, 32, who is believed to have killed his 2-year-old daughter Phiwokhule. Picture: Supplied

Terrible how a broke father allegedly poisoned his daughter last month because he could no longer take care of him after losing his job due to lockdown.

Russel Makhubela, 32, his partner Thanduzile Ndlovu, 26, and their two-year-old daughter Phiwokuhle Ndlovu moved from Mbombela to the newer L section of Lawley township in Gauteng in August last year to look for work TimesLive reports.

Despite being a registered security officer, Makhubela was unable to find work and could not afford the fees to maintain his registration. He was working piece jobs when lockdown was enforced and the family lost their home.

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Julie Smith, researcher at the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PMBEJD), said malnutrition and hunger were a systemic problem and that cases like this highlighted what was happening to many other families in SA.

“What we are hearing are cases like these where people choose suicide rather than starvation. Starvation is a very painful process, and you don’t see homes of people where everyone died from starvation, but rather you hear about suicides and other issues like health and mental health crises.”

Phiwokuhle Ndlovu, 2, was allegedly poisoned by her father Russel Makhubela, 32, who is on the run and believed to have also ingested the poison.
Phiwokuhle Ndlovu, 2, was allegedly poisoned by her father Russel Makhubela, 32, who is on the run and believed to have also ingested the poison. Image: Supplied by the family

On Thursday, March 25, the family went to gather firewood in the thickets above their shack when Makhubela, depressed and desperate after having to rely on his sister for money, decided the family should commit suicide rather than suffer poverty.

The wood was to cook their last cup of mielie meal – their only food that day.

Ndlovu explained what happened.

“He … asked me: ‘How would you manage to take care of the kids if I’m gone?’ And I said: ‘I’ll try my best even though we have little money.’ But he told me he’d taken poison and given it to the child too. He said we should die together as a family rather than suffer through poverty.

“I said I wouldn’t and pleaded with him to go back home, but he told me: ‘Can you see what’s happening to the child? It’s too late.’ I looked and there was froth coming from her mouth.

“I ran with the child, crying for help, but then I looked down at her and realised she was no more. I looked back up the hill for my husband, but he had disappeared.”

Phiwokuhle was buried last week Wednesday in a ceremony provided by Ndlovu’s community.

On Monday, police spokesperson Capt Kay Makhubela said the SAPS was still looking for Makhubela.

Last week Capt Mavela Masondo said police began searching for him as soon as they got the callout. He confirmed the toddler had died after ingesting “an unknown substance”.

Masondo said dogs were brought in and they had found items of the man’s clothing near a small dam at the top of the hill. Divers had searched the water but had not found anything.

To determine the substance that killed the toddler might also be a long wait – up to a decade.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize told parliament in January that 28,818 toxicology reports were outstanding in three of the department’s laboratories and that more than 30,000 reports had been outstanding for 10 years and longer.

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