Cape Quads’ mom details a harrowing journey marred by frustration
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CAPE TOWN - The Mafenuka family, highly celebrated for having quadruplets who were dubbed the “Cape Quads,” has looked back on their journey that started with a flurry of support and ended in some empty promises that nearly saw them homeless.
Khayelitsha’s 25-year-old Inganathi Mafenuka made headlines in 2018 after giving birth to four premature babies, two boys, Bubele and Buchule and two girls, Bungcwele and Bunono, at the age of 22, in Tygerberg Hospital.
Mafenuka was forced to give up her studies due to a lack of finances and the pressing need to take care of her babies, until Community Chest offered her a bursary which allowed her to complete the course.
Before the mother and her babies were discharged they were cautioned that the informal settlement where they resided posed a health risk for the premature babies and that they would be assisted to move to a better environment.
However, Mafuneka's mother Luleka said Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo allegedly failed to deliver on her word to help and that she had to look for another place to live.
“From all those people who were at the hospital when the media was there and those who weren’t but announced they would help, only Clicks, LottoStar and Community Chest delivered as they promised. There was never a stress about what the babies will eat or wear. The only stress we had was finding a house to rent and when I did, without any government help, a few months later we faced an eviction,” Luleka said.
She said the owners of the house were selling the place and she struggled with no support or advice on what to do.
“I even went to the MEC’s office but nothing was done. I finally settled the issue of the house only this year. There’s nothing that any government department did to help us. We were told that nurses would also be sent at times to check up the babies but no one came. The house has no fencing but we were told that children must be in a safe space,” she said.
However Health MEC, Nomafrench Mbombo fired back saying she did not make any promises.
“MEC did not make promises to the family.” Mbombo’ s spokesperson, Nomawethu Sbukwana said.
“It is not the Department of Health’s competency to provide housing or move people regardless of the situation. The department can only offer health services. We do not do house calls but specialist services obstetrics and neo-natal high-end health services were provided. Also, follow up health checks as required.”
Sbukwana acknowledged the calls but added that in “all those cases she was informed that there is nothing that the department can assist with except for health services”.
In 2019 grief struck the family after Bubele passed away, a month after celebrating his first birthday.
Mafenuka said the journey that started smoothly shifted to frustration and the loss is still hard to accept.
“I enjoyed each milestone, maybe it’s because happiness surrounded us. Each of the babies developed their own identity, Bunono has always been a child who showed love towards other children and that is still there. Bungcwele is still a crybaby and makes it clear (that) what is hers, is hers only. Buchule always smiles, she is soft hearted and doesn’t like seeing other children hurt.
“I stopped breastfeeding them when they were three months, except for Bubele, he stopped at 5 months. I couldn’t keep up with the breast milk demand from the quadruplets. The death of Bulele hit me very hard and I still think about him a lot. His siblings know about him, we sometimes place flowers at the graveyard,” she said.
On a positive note, a strong, 25-year-old Mafuneka completed her IT studies and graduated this year. She is now looking forward to finding a job next year and fulfilling her dream to raise her children in a warm loving home.