‘All I wanted to do was go to my family’

Life Ndlovu at the fish pond in Newcastle which claimed the life of her 3 year-old grandson.

As part of Women’s Month, the False Bay Echo will speak to some extraordinary women, who, despite facing great difficulties, remain strong, give back to their communities and refuse to be defeated.

A “strange” dream the night before her 3-year-old grandson drowned in a fish pond, still haunts a Fish Hoek grandmother.

Life Ndlovu, a teacher at Jupiter Street Primary School in Ocean View, says in the dream, golden lions were chasing all her grandchildren.

“I told them to climb onto rocks but in my dream, I knew they would not be safe because lions can also climb.”

In the dream, she had run away and locked herself in a room. “I don’t know why but I didn’t pray in that room. I always pray when I need God but that night, I didn’t.”

She says the dream haunts her to this day and she told her eldest daughter, Mduduzi Ndlovu, about the dream shortly before Zachary’s death.

“It was a very painful dream. Why didn’t I pray? Were the golden lions angels coming to collect Zachary?”

On the morning of February 10, Ms Ndlovu received a video call from her daughter-in-law, Beauty Ndlovu.

Beauty had Zachary slumped in her arms and all she could utter was, “mama, my boy, mama, my boy.”

The call ended, and Ms Ndlovu collapsed at school not knowing what had happened to Zachary.

“I was very upset and traumatised and all I wanted to know was if he was alive,” she says.

Colleagues at the school took her phone from her and tried to calm her. They later drove her home and the first thing she asked her husband when she walked through the door was, “Where is Zachary?” and he replied: “He is no more.”

“All I wanted to do was go to my family and see it with my own eyes,” she says.

At the time, Ms Ndlovu’s son, Bonani Ndlovu, was in Swaziland on business, and his wife, Beauty, was in Newcastle, with the couple’s two children, Zachary, 3, and Zahara, then six months old.

Beauty, who was in Newcastle for business, had left the children with their babysitter while she was at work. The babysitter had put Zahara down for a nap and then found Zachary floating in the fish pond.

Ms Ndlovu made all the travel arrangements and she and Mduduzi flew to Durban and then drove to Newcastle while her husband, Ethest, and her other daughter, Musa Ndlovu, and her husband drove to Midrand, where Bonani and Beauty lived, to prepare for their homecoming.

When they arrived in Newcastle, Bonani had already made his way from Swaziland to Newcastle and he and Beauty were being comforted by some friends from Kroonstad as “their grief was unbearable”.

“I didn’t cry then,” says Ms Ndlovu. “I knew I had to be strong for my family. It was the hardest thing I had ever done.”

Later that evening, Beauty collapsed and had to be hospitalised. Earlier that day when she arrived at the scene of her son’s death, she found Zachary’s body had already been placed in a plastic bag. She ripped the bag open. It was then that she had called her mother on the phone with Zachary in her arms.

“She wasn’t ready to let him go,” says Ms Ndlovu. “Even the second time they had put him in a bag she wouldn’t let go.”

The following day, Beauty was released from hospital and the family went to the morgue to say their goodbyes.

“He was so handsome when I saw him. It looked like he was going to sit up and say ‘hello, gogo’,” says Ms Ndlovu.

And then finally she could cry. Everyone had been taken care of and she could grieve for “her beautiful Zachary”.

Three weeks after the funeral, Ms Ndlovu, still grief-stricken, helped several families in Masiphumelele after their shacks had burned down. Her non-profit organisation, Precious Lives Matter, helps the community with food, blankets, and building materials.

“I couldn’t just lie down after this tragedy. My community needed me.”

She says her faith in God and the love and support she had received from the staff and principal at Jupiter Street Primary School, the principal at Ukhanyo Primary School, the community, and the members of the Full Gospel Church (Fullies) in Fish Hoek, gave her the strength to “go on”.

But then tragedy struck again on July 23 when her nephew, who was like a grandson to her, took his own life in Francistown, Botswana.

Ms Ndlovu says she and Webster Moyo, 29, “were very close and often spoke on WhatsApp.”

The family became suspicious when Mr Moyo started posting “strange” messages on Facebook like a photograph of a stairway leading to heaven, captioned: “Take me oh God, thank you everyone, love you.”

Ms Ndlovu says it was “uncharacteristic” of him and she contacted his girlfriend who told her he was in the hospital. It was only when she called the hospital and the nurse told her to call the police that she realised something was “very wrong”.

“He had taken his life in a very public manner and took photographs of the noose, the chair, and the bucket and sent it to his girlfriend,” says Ms Ndlovu.

Again, she made all the travel arrangements and she and her husband arrived in Francistown at 6.30am the following day. There she had also not cried and had to be strong for her family.

“I only cried when I saw him in the morgue,” she says.

It was a “scramble” to get enough money together to bury him, but Ms Ndlovu made a plan.

He was laid to rest at Ms Ndlovu’s place of birth, Dula Village, in the heart of the Matopo Hills in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe.

Life Ndlovu