THE TRIPLE TRAGEDY THAT BEFELL THE MASEKOS

When news broke out that Dr Nhlavana Maseko’s second wife, Nomsa Kubheka, had caught COVID, her children, most of whom live in Johannesburg, quickly left everything in order to be with their mother. By the time they arrived in the country, Kubheka was already at the Siteki Hospital and showing promising signs of recuperating. Earlier in the year Kubheka had lost her firstborn daughter, Phephisile Maseko, to COVID and if there is any family that understood the severity of COVID 19 then it had to be the Masekos.

What Kubheka’s children didn’t know though was that coming home to support their mother would end up being a case of triple tragedy.

Kubheka subsequently died on August 28 after days of battling COVID and three days later her husband, Dr Maseko, followed. The family had tried to hide the death of Kubheka from Dr Maseko fearing the news would exacerbate his ill health but it didn’t help because he later died of a heart attack.

While everyone was preparing to bury Kubheka, in line with all COVID protocols, Bakhombisile Titiza Maseko, one of Kubheka’s children, started feeling ill. She too was based in Johannesburg and had come home to bury her mother only to be met with the untimely death of her father too. Like everyone else, she was distraught and when she started to feel ill many thought it was a case of bad reaction to the loss of her mother and father in such a short period of time.

Bakhombisile even conducted an interview with the Times of Eswatini on September 1, confirming her father’s death. Three days later, on September 4 to be exact, Bakhombisile herself died. She had developed what people suspected were ‘fits’ but nothing much was suspected of it. Fits are sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbances in the brain that can cause changes in your behaviour, movements or feelings, and levels of consciousness.

Bakhombisile Maseko

“By the time she was taken to hospital, it was already too late. She died soon as she got there,” said a family member. Bakhombisile's sudden death divided the family especially given how sudden the death was. An autopsy had to be done to determine her cause of death. Assumptions that she had died of COVID came back negative sending wide speculation on what could have caused her death. Bakhombisile had come home to bury her mother, then lost her father and ultimately couldn’t bury both.

Phephisile Maseko

Dr Maseko had three wives and leaves many children and grandchildren. For Kubheka she is now survived by her remaining children; Thuthie, Nobesuthu, Babili and grandchildren Nonzwakazi, Vuyolwethu, Amanda, Zababa, Lwandile, Ndlovukazi and Priyaenshi.

Yesterday people from all walks of life gathered to bury Dr Maseko. But he had long been buried in line with the Maseko traditions and customs. Only his coffin was buried though. As a senior royal in the Maseko clan, Dr Maseko is not buried like commoners but is hidden in mountains where only family members know.

Kubheka

Dr Maseko was not just a famous traditional healer in the continent but he was also a businessman who had properties in Johannesburg. He had a seven-story residential building in the middle of Johannesburg. He also had a 16 story building where the offices of the Traditional Healers Organisations are housed.

The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) in South Africa has already paid tribute to Ms Bakhombisile Maseko, a veteran role player in South Africa's indigenous knowledge systems. The late Bhakhombisile had replaced her sister Phephisile Maseko as National Coordinator of the Traditional Healers' Organisation and also served on the task team of a pilot project on recognition of prior learning (RPL) of indigenous knowledge (IK) holders.

The RPL initiative stems from the DSI's Indigenous Knowledge Policy and the subsequent Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Act, 2019, which calls for accreditation and certification of the competencies of IK practitioners in the country.

"Ms Maseko played a significant role in this area, facilitating the documentation of norms and standards of competencies in the traditional health domain," said Dr Phil Mjwara, the Director-General of Science and Innovation.

While Ms Maseko's involvement in the RPL initiative was brief, her presence was impactful, the Director-General said, and she will be remembered as a strong and remarkable person with a deep sense of ubuntu, compassion and duty in advocating the cause of traditional practitioners as a profession.

"The Department extends its sincere and deepest condolences to Ms Maseko's immediate and extended family, including her colleagues in the traditional healers' sector. The Department also pays tribute to Ms Maseko's parents, who passed a few days apart last week," continued Mjwara.