Did animal or person snatch missing toddler?

2008-08-03 00:00

A couple at Otto’s Bluff outside Pietermaritzburg are fraught with worry following the disappearance of their three-year-old son more than a week ago.

Thandiwe Mbanjwa has lost weight since Sanele vanished from her homestead at Green Sleeves Farm on July 21. Sanele’s father, Sizwe Mpulo, has even consulted traditional healers to try to detect the whereabouts of the child.

Sanele’s disappearance has baffled police, who have not made any progress.

“[Thandiwe] has been crying ever since her child disappeared. We have been begging her to eat something,” said her mother, Dorah Mbanjwa.

Sanele was last seen playing in the yard on the morning of July 21. His grandfather, Richard Mbanjwa, was watching him.

“I went to the toilet, leaving the child playing. Less than 10 minutes later I returned to find him missing. I thought he had followed one of my neighbours as usual. But when I went to look for him there was no one in my neighbour’s homestead,” said Mbanjwa.

Mbanjwa said he shouted the child’s name, but there was no response. Then he phoned the child’s parents with the shocking news.

They came and started looking, and police, including the K9 Search and Rescue Unit, joined the search. But Sanele was nowhere to be found.

“I fear that this boy might have been eaten by wild animals,” said one of the police officers who participated in the search.

The Mbanjwa and Mpulo homesteads are situated deep inside a dense forest on the farm. They have only two neighbours, including the farm owner.

The farm has animals such as buffalo and rhinos, which are separated by an electric fence from the residential area. Mpulo said there are also pythons, which never come close to the homestead.

Dorah suspects Sanele’s disappearance was at the hand of a human.

“If it was an animal, his grandfather would have heard him screaming. Someone must have taken him,” said Dorah.

Mpulo said that a traditional healer, whom he consulted in Pietermaritzburg, promised that the child would be back in a few days. “The traditional healer told me to tell the police to stop the search because whoever took the child is going to bring him back alive,” said Mpulo.

Inspector Jack Haskins of K9 Search and Rescue said he has found no signs that the child might have been eaten by an animal.

“I have no idea of what happened to this boy. When we got there on the day we looked for signs that a python might have been around, but found none. If he was eaten by a leopard there would have been signs of blood.

“We are going to continue searching because the hope is always there,” said Haskins.

bhans@witness.co.za

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