By Isaac Salima
In Chileka, Blantyre, six people of the same family went to bed last Sunday after attending a church service and doing some household chores. Only two woke up alive the following day.
They are Saina Chimsewu, 33, and her oneyear-old son. Chimsewu is devastated.
She says she sometimes wakes up at night screaming, hoping she was just having a bad dream. But this is a reality she will live with for the rest of her life.
She recalls that after cooking pumpkins and fresh maize for that day’s supper, the family ate the meal before retiring to bed.
In the middle of the night, all but the one-yearold started experiencing stomach pains and vomiting.
Two children Rosarian, 13, and Chikondi, nine, and the mother were rushed to Dziwe Health Centre as their conditions were deteriorating, leaving behind the father Evance Kalichero and six-year-old Evance Kalichero Junior.
Few hours after arriving at the hospital, the two children breathed their last.
“Later, I also received a call that my husband had died. As I was still digesting the devastating news, I received another call that my younger son had also passed on,” Chimsewu said when we visited her troubled home.
She was visibly traumatised, devastated and hopeless. And this was her second husband to lose to death.
In the meantime, she finds it difficult to accept that from that cheerful sixmember family—that, with affection, shared all they could manage to source in their poverty—only her and a toddler are remaining.
“After the death of my first husband, who left me with two children, I thought I had found somebody who was everything to me,” she said of her second husband.
Chimsewu is a peasant farmer.
Alone with her son, life will be testing, she says.
“My husband, our breadwinner is gone. I hoped my children would grow into responsible citizens. They are gone. Where do I start from? “I am alone in the house with my one-year-old son who is fatherless,” she whimpered.
The deaths were obviously bizarre, but Chimsewu, who had been with her husband for seven years, refuses to suspect foul play. Still, she does not want to speculate what caused the tragedy.
The shattered widow’s brother, Dyton Samson, admits the family does not have the faintest idea of what killed their loved ones.
“How can four people die just like that? We still ask ourselves what exactly happened, but we do not have the answers. If the food was poisoned, why did it take all those hours before killing our relatives?” Samson wondered.
“Now we do not know who will take care of our sister because we cannot afford to provide for her,” Samson said.
Group Village Head Kantumbiza said this is the first time a tragedy of that nature and magnitude had happened in his area with the ill-fated home now the centre of pitiful attention.
“We are disturbed with what happened. Now all fingers are pointing at this village because this is the first time something like this has happened in this area,” the local ruler said.
Chileka Police Public Relations Officer, Jonathan Phillipo, said results from postmortems conducted on the four dead bodies pointed to food poisoning.
“We are still investigating the issue to find out who could be behind this,” Phillipo said.
On Wednesday, the three bodies were laid to rest in Kantumbiza Village, their fresh earth tombs lying side by side as though their occupants had entered a pact to depart together.