Baby snatched from mother

2014-04-17 00:00

A MONTH-OLD baby is missing after being snatched from his mother in the queue at Home Affairs in Pietermaritzburg.

Yesterday his parents, feeling abandoned by the authorities, made a desperate plea to Witness readers: “Help us find our child”.

The couple, Bonginkosi Mphemba (34) and Nonhlanhla Madlala (25), say they are terrified for baby Olwethu’s safety.

The couple alleged that police only arrived over an hour after the snatching on Tuesday.

“By that time it would not have been easy to find him because they came so late,” said Mphemba.

He said Olwethu’s mother, Madlala, had gone to Home Affairs on Monday morning to register the birth of their baby.

Madlala said a woman had approached her and offered to help her as she was trying to fill in the forms and hold little Olwethu at the same time.

The woman told her that she was also a mother, and said she should let her hold the baby so the mother could write properly.

Madlala remembers that the stranger’s phone kept ringing and she had not answered it, but when she eventually picked up, she spoke as if she was struggling to hear the person on the other end and moved around the room as if trying to find a signal.

Without suspecting anything was amiss, Madlala continued completing the necessary forms but soon realised she couldn’t hear the woman’s voice.

Panic engulfed her as she rushed to the staircase and out into the street outside Home Affairs but the woman was nowhere to be seen.

An emotional Madlala described the woman as tall and light in complexion, with a bruise on one of her eyes. She said she was estimated to be about 28 years old and was wearing a black leather jacket and black skinny jeans.

Madlala also noticed that the woman was carrying an identical nappy bag to hers but had not been carrying a baby. When she got home she also realised that the woman had snatched a bottle of her baby’s milk, which was in the side pocket of her bag.

“I have no doubt that I would recognise her if I saw her,” she said, weeping.

Madlala described Olwethu as a child who eats all the time. “He’s a quiet, happy baby. He sleeps straight after a bath and only cries when he’s wet.”

Mphemba said it was impossible to describe how he felt.

“My head is dizzy. I am afraid the person who has Olwethu may kill him for muthi to get rich; that’s what I’m thinking. If they wanted him to keep, there are other places you can get a baby. But maybe they were just desperate for a baby or want to make money by getting a child support grant. But you can’t survive on the R320 grant money. They may kill him once they get the money.”

Mphemba said that the staff at Safe City had tried to help by looking back at the film from various cameras nearby, but had been unable to find anything.

Yesterday he said he had been to Home Affairs to try and get more answers, but had been unsuccessful.

Captain Thulani Zwane said the Pietermaritzburg police commander was investigating the allegation of the police’s slow response time.

Despite a request for the police to provide a contact number for the officer assigned to the case for members of the public to call in the event they spot Olwethu, no response was received. The father can be contacted at 079 405 6518 and the mother at 076 082 0125.

Home Affairs response:

Nosipho Shandu, the acting provincial manager for KZN Home Affairs, said no staff member from the department or the private security company working at their offices had noticed a woman leaving their premises with a child or could identify a women wearing leather jacket or black pants.

“This office is visited by plus-minus 500 clients per day for various services hence it is very difficult to identify and remember each and every client that visits.”

Shandu said in response to the incident, the private security company would be “more vigilant and have been briefed about the incident to avoid future occurrences”.

“Mothers are advised to be extra careful and not trust strangers with their children,” she said.

Asked what assistance was given to the distraught parents, Shandu said, “The matter was reported to SAPS for further investigations.

“Security is our primary concern and the public are urged to secure their belongings. The staff is always willing to assist all clients visiting Home Affairs offices, including mothers with small babies. However, front office personnel deal with the clients in the form of assisting with completion of forms and other matters relating to service delivery.”

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