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First on EWN: Third child dies in suspected food poisoning case

EWN understands a third child at Ema Primary School has now died.

FILE: An example of a feeding scheme.

JOHANNESBURG - Eyewitness News has learned cake provided by a community member may have resulted in the deaths of three children in Winterveldt, north of Pretoria.

It was earlier reported that three children died after eating food provided through a state feeding scheme at the Ema Primary School.

But Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi says a preliminary report indicates that all three of the children had also eaten food from a non-feeding scheme source.

"From the feeding programme we provided yesterday, dough or bread was not part of the menu. It emerged that they ate cake, and we did not provide cake. Late last night a granny came forward to say she had provided the cake." Police are now interrogating the woman.

The three girls, aged between 6 and 8, died at a local clinic shortly after falling ill at the primary school yesterday.

Lesufi has ordered an investigation into the incident and says other pupils who ate the government supplied food have been observed overnight and are in good health.

"I'm speechless. Children come to our schools to get support, not to leave our schools in stretchers. I'm saddened and don't have words to describe this. I will investigate this."

Lesufi says he will meet with the parents of the three young girls and staff at the school to determine how the children fell ill.

"As a state we are responsible and that's the role I'm taking when I meet with parents, the school and whoever else was involved. Someone has to be held accountable."

POLICE AWAIT POST-MORTEM RESULTS

The police's Kabelo Maruma says all three children died after being rushed to the clinic.

Maruma says they have opened an inquest docket, but have not yet started the investigation, which requires a medical report.

"An inquest case has been registered at the police station. We are waiting for the post-mortem results after which we will take over the investigation."

The food served to the children has been sent for testing and the contract of the service provider has since been suspended by Lesufi.

GRIEF LIKE NO OTHER

Speaking exclusively to Eyewitness News yesterday , the father of the sisters, Klaas Mahlangu, said he was called to the school only to find his daughters had been taken to a clinic where they later died.

Mahlangu said he was devastated.

"It's like I'm dreaming and nothing like this is happening. I'm waiting for someone to wake me up. This is not happening."