The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has condemned social media reports blaming the death of five children in South Africa, after they consumed noodles, to “tampering” on the part of foreign nationals.
The SAHRC’s comments come following the tragic death of the five children in two separate incidents, at least a week apart, in Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape.
Earlier this month, three children aged between four-months and 11-years-old, died in Motherwell (Eastern Cape) after eating instant noodles they had bought in nearby New Brighton, where they were visiting relatives.
About a week later, a brother and sister in Mpumalanga died after apparently eating instant noodles for breakfast before going to school. The UK’s Sun newspaper reports that Keamogetswe (13) and Thato (9) Makofane’s Uncle Mpho Chosen Makofane says the family is “broken” and still waiting for post-mortem results from the police.
In both cases the children allegedly complained of severe cramps before dying. According to the Health Department, the noodles the children ate belonged to two different brands. The Department has reportedly ordered an urgent investigation into possible food poisoning in Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape, as well as in Gauteng.
Of rumours being spread, SAHRC says: “The commission reminds the public that official sources, being the Department of Health and South African Police Services, are still investigating the possible contamination.
“At this stage, there is no evidence to suggest any possible tampering or any link with foreign owned businesses. Should there be cause for concern, the authorities will communicate this.”
The SAHRC said to cast any aspersions of maliciousness on the part of foreign nationals is “irresponsible”.
“Suggestions that the tragic deaths… in two different provinces are the result of revenge by foreign nationals are irresponsible and have no basis in fact. Until such time as the health authorities confirm the cause of the deaths… and the police have traced the source of any contamination (should any contamination be found), the commission urges communities across the country to remain vigilant against the irresponsible spread of any messages which attempt to link the deaths to any alleged revenge plot,” the commission said.
The SAHRC implored the public not to spread fake news over the internet regarding the two incidents. “Should you receive messages of this nature, please do not forward them and advise the sender of the message that this is unproven allegation and fake news,” it said.
Health authorities are considering a possible recall of the products concerned should the evidence indicate that this is required.
“The commission will continue to monitor the media and engage with the authorities in regard to ensuring that factual information is made available to the public,” said SAHRC.