Convinced they are the victims of witchcraft, tormented by tiny, vicious biting bugs, an elderly couple are desperately seeking spiritual intervention to end their year of hell.
57-year-old Leffie Simon and her husband, Simon Mothobi, 68, have fled their home in Letlhakane, making the 350km journey to Maun to escape the hungry, relentless bugs.
Although the creatures are invisible to the naked eye, legible to the couple only, the harm they cause is clear for all see.
Simon’s arms are covered in scratch marks, her face scarred by little bumps. Frail and uneasy, she is obviously agitated and unable to sit still.
Having travelled the country searching unsuccessfully for help, the couple have come to Boseja ward to stay with their son, hoping that traditional herbalists with religious backgrounds might save them before it’s too late.
“Help is not coming through and we are suffering. These things will definitely kill me if I don’t get help soon. They are draining fluids from my body and leaving me dehydrated,” states Simon with a sad, resigned sigh.
She explains that her father’s death early last year was the catalyst for their struggles.
It appears he was a respected spiritual traditional healer, who owned a special cane which contained powers.
Conflict arose when a relative asked to be given the cane but Simon refused.
“Our intention was to throw it in the river. We delayed because we were in the dry season, so we waited for the river to start flowing. That is how it is supposed to be disposed, in a flowing river,” she explains with complete conviction.
Her refusal did not go down well with the relative, who was not shy in voicing their displeasure.
That same night, Simon was ‘attacked’ by what she thought was a flea.
“It was hovering over my face and it was scary because it was late at night and I was in bed with my husband. Trying to blow it away was not helping and it ended up getting under the blankets and disappeared,” remembers the worried wife.
That was in April last year. It proved to be the beginning of their nightmare.
“The bugs crawled and bit me all over my body, including inside the mouth, nose and even my privates. Sometimes when I eat I accidentally crunch on them and I have to spit out the food and as you know bugs have strong smell. I only survive on milk at the moment because I do not want to chew the bugs,” she reveals, wrinkling her nose in disgust at the memory.
As she speaks, she scratches her body, gets up and shakes her dress.
“To get the bugs out!” she explains.
Next to her are two buckets. One contains clean water, which she randomly uses to rinse the bugs from her mouth, before spitting them into the other bucket. Although this reporter strains her admittedly aging eyes for a sight of the mysterious bugs, she sees nothing.
Both Simon and Mothubi are adamant, however.
“They are tiny bugs, red in colour some are decorated in other colours,” she says, shuddering in disgust.
Mothobi is convinced the bug his wife felt on that fateful night back in April 2022 continues to lay eggs on her, which produce the tiny beasts currently torturing her.
“We have sought help from different healers, religious and traditional. We have paid some but still we cannot find help. We need a cure for this ailment,” he begs.
In their consultations with various healers, one theme remains constant; the couple were told the bug entered Simon through her nose.
Although not as bad, the old man also has several scars from his own battle with the invisible enemy.
“The sting is very painful, more like the bed bug sting. I sometimes see them, but when you pick them with your fingers they will just disappear.”
Unbothered about his own discomfort, his concern is fixed firmly on his wife, who is struggling both physically and mentally.
Simon has lost a lot of weight in the last year and, according to her husband, is being pushed to the edge of insanity.
“Sometimes she takes off her clothes and rolls on the sand or stands very close to an open fire just to get the bugs off her body. She is suffering. She can’t even eat because they are also in her mouth. When she stands close to the fire her clothes catch fire and she also gets burnt. It is painful to see her suffer like this, we really need help,” he ends desperately.