Defend Truth


Eastern Cape case of Buso family tragedy was ‘murder and death by hunger’


Dr Imtiaz Sooliman is the founder of Gift of the Givers.

Hunger is an insidious psychological, emotional and physical pain consuming parents as they lose hope and watch in anguish how their children and families waste away. It’s up to all South Africans to do what they can to alleviate the burden.

Those in the know within the SAPS say the death of four people in the Tholeni administrative area of Butterworth, Eastern Cape, on Sunday morning, 6 August, is not a new phenomenon. 

Many such cases have been recorded and closed with the words ‘no foul play suspected’. The docket cannot be labelled “murder and death by hunger”; this can only be assumed owing to recurrent similar incidents. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Desperate Eastern Cape mom kills starving children and hangs herself

The tragic case of the Buso family is yet another example of “no foul play” – a mother feeds Rattex to her two younger children, stabs the elder daughter in the neck and then hangs herself, presumably because there isn’t enough food to poison all four family members. The circumstances leading to the deaths cannot be proved, but the SAPS, Department of Social Development and the community are unanimous in saying that poverty and hunger are the principal causative factors. 

Gift of the Givers has been commenting for years now on the escalating level of hunger in our country. Hunger is an insidious psychological, emotional and physical pain consuming parents as they lose hope and watch in anguish how their children and families waste away. 

Lockdown Level 5 during Covid-19 brought to the fore and accentuated levels of hunger. In Peddie a mother collects a food parcel from us and says: “Speak to my children, they will tell you the taste of every plant in the area, they’ve been eating plants for three months to survive.” 

Gift of the Givers intervened with hundreds of thousands of food parcels, supported hundreds of soup kitchens, promoted food gardens for sustainability yet it was never enough. 

In 2022 we noticed increasing numbers of children dying from malnutrition in the Eastern Cape and expanded our support with R30-million worth of EeZee peanut paste and Genesis, both products being fortified and nutritionally enriched. Recently, in every fire and flood disaster we have responded to, the levels of hunger have been glaring. Not only the victims but the community as a whole was hungry long before the disaster. We increased our feeding from a three- to a seven-day service and included everyone. The gratitude was visible in the eyes. 

As a nation our compassion and spirit of generosity cannot allow another tragic incident yet again. Learners at ECD, primary, secondary and tertiary level in increasing numbers are challenged with hunger. 

Corporate SA has been generous, but a larger percentage of the corporate social investment budget must be dedicated to hunger alleviation. 

Feeding another child or adult is a test of our humanity. This is not a government, corporate or high-earner responsibility, but a collective responsibility of all South Africans with whatever excess we have to share. Creating apprenticeships and employment for youth, offering them a decent stipend, would significantly contribute to reducing hunger in each household by a number of seven. DM

Gift of the Givers has already received calls from Peddie and Wesley today for increased bulk food to deal with malnutrition. South Africans wanting to participate in hunger alleviation can deposit into Gift of the Givers, Standard Bank, Pietermaritzburg, Account number 052137228, Branch Code 057525, ref Hunger.


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  • Jenny Groenewald says:

    Will this mean a damn thing to our fat, overpaid, blue light brigade, Parliamentarians. Julius, who has said he did not get in to politics to be poor? How these people sleep at night should be a subject of major research!

  • Jennifer Hughes says:

    Thank you, always, to Gift of the Givers. I sometimes feel this organisation is one of South Africa’s final bastions of hope.

  • Eulalie Spamer says:

    Gift of the Givers can educate our political masters on subjects such as effectiveness, moral principle, responsiveness, public above private interest, prioritisation of interventions, sheer humanity. Shame on you Mr. President and your abysmal ANC cadres that a charitable donor funded organisation has to remedy the the inhuman consequences of the crass incompetence of your self- serving government.

  • Alex Van Den Heever says:

    If only our government displayed the public values of Gift of the Givers. We cannot place the burden for addressing the massive social needs of South Africa on a civil society organisation. We pay two and a half trillion rand for these needs to be met by government. Sadly, this largess is seen as a Gift for the Takers. The most undeserving get to feed while the people starve.

  • Andrew Blaine says:

    Whatever happened to Ubuntu. Death through starvation casts a shadow over the whole community.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    The ANC success story: chapter 40087.

    Read on South Africans; it’s a real stomach turner.

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