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‘A dedicated man who lived for his family’: wife of policeman taken by Covid-19

13 May 2020 - 10:56 By Iavan Pijoos
Capt Andrew Leslie and his wife Colette. Leslie died died at Wilhelm Stahl Hospital in Middelburg.
Capt Andrew Leslie and his wife Colette. Leslie died died at Wilhelm Stahl Hospital in Middelburg.
Image: Supplied

Capt Andrew Leslie could still walk when his wife persuaded him to go to hospital.

He had been struggling with a fever, cough and a sore throat. Just hours after being admitted to Wilhelm Stahl Hospital, a doctor told his wife, Colette: “Sorry, he didn’t make it.”

The acting commander of Middelburg police station in the Eastern Cape had not succumbed to a bullet fired by a criminal. He was felled by Covid-19 on Monday evening.

“My husband was very active in his role at the police and served the community. With the Covid-19 outbreak, he tried his utmost to keep everyone safe,” Colette told TimesLIVE on Wednesday. “I am going to miss him a lot. He was a remarkable man and hated corruption. He lived for his family. I am going to miss cooking for him, because he loved my food.”

She said the father of two started complaining of a high fever on Monday last week.

The next day, he was examined at home by the family doctor.

“The doctor found that his fever was extremely high and then he decided to conduct a Covid-19 test on him. While we waited for the results Andrew started complaining that his body was getting sore. He was put on antibiotics and pain killers and then it got better.”

Colette said her husband was still battling a cough and later started complaining about a sore throat.  She said by the time his test returned positive on Friday, his condition started “deteriorating badly”.

A clinical research centre in Cape Town called TASK has begun a vaccine clinical trial on 500 health workers to determine if the Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine can prevent people from contracting the coronavirus or limit the severity of Covid-19 symptoms.

Fellow police officers were temporarily relocated and will undergo their own tests. It was still unclear where Leslie contracted the virus.

She said he turned blue around the mouth at the weekend and she convinced him to seek medical attention on the Monday.

“The doctor said we should take him to hospital and he would examine him there. My husband could still walk and got into his car himself. My son drove us to the hospital.”

Leslie was treated in an isolation room at the back of the hospital and Colette was asked to stay outside.

“I later took them his diabetic medicine and he was also suffering from chronic high blood pressure. He also told them he must eat so they said they would make him something in the kitchen.

“We waited in the parking area and no-one came to give us updates on his condition. I went in again and they still refused to let me in.

“The doctor spoke to us through the window and told us that he examined him and his lungs and sugar levels were fine. He said we shouldn’t worry because he was in good hands and he would arrange for an ambulance to transport him to Bloemfontein.”  

At 9pm,  the doctor asked to see Colette. At the time, there had been no sign of the ambulance.  

Jacques Frazenburg and Andrew Leslie receiving their 10-year service medals.
Jacques Frazenburg and Andrew Leslie receiving their 10-year service medals.
Image: Supplied

“I went to the door of the isolation ward where the doctor was waiting for me. He told me that Leslie didn’t make it. I couldn’t understand because he told me that everything was fine a few minutes ago. I ran out to my mother outside and asked her to help me.

“I feel that the department is not ready for this Covid-19. I don’t know if they were negligent with my husband or what happened."

Leslie's former colleague and friend, Jacques Frazenburg, said when the two young men started fresh out of the academy at the Middelburg police station, they had “big shoes to fill”.

“We always helped each other. He was extremely focused and always put his family first. His wife and children were his everything. Andrew's work was his pride and joy and he was a very neat person.

"He was a dedicated sportsman who could analyse rugby to the finest detail. Every time after a rugby game we would analyse players, especially the games between the All Blacks and the Springboks. That’s how I will remember him.”

Informal part-time work is the bread and butter of many foreign migrant workers in SA. They travel to SA to look for jobs, work for a few months and head back home with some money for themselves and their families. A group of men from Lesotho who came to SA for that reason are now stranded in the country for much longer than they expected thanks to the lockdown.