Failed by the system

2012-05-17 00:00

Destitute dad’s plea for help after baby’s shocking mutilation

THE shocking mutilation of a toddler whose eyes, lips, ears and nose were harvested for muthi has gone unpunished by authorities eight months after the brutal assault.

To compound her trauma, the child’s destitute father has been unable to get her to hospital for specialist treatment and needs help.

The little girl was only nine-months-old when she was allegedly sold to her attacker in Matatiele on the border of KwaZulu-Natal by a relative for R300.

After slicing off the parts from her face, and two fingers from her left hand, the suspect wrapped the screaming child in blankets and set her alight.

Her wails caught the attention of another child, who raised the alarm.

Miraculously, the severely injured child survived her horrifying ordeal in September last year, but today bears terrible scars.

The Witness is withholding her identity for her protection.

Although Eastern Cape premier Noxolo Kiviet was informed of the crime, very little state assistance seems to have come her destitute family’s way.

The child’s unemployed dad said he was unable to afford the trips to hospital in Mthatha, 172 km away, where his daughter needs specialist care.

So far she has had surgery to rebuild parts of her mouth and ears, but requires further reconstructive work to shape her nose and other mutilated facial features.

To date, the dad said, he has missed seven appointments.

“My child has had enough pain and I need help from anyone.”

Police confirmed a case of attempted murder was opened.

However, there has allegedly been virtually no effort to investigate, even though members of the Harry Gwala Park settlement — where the attack occurred — say they know the whereabouts of the alleged perpetrator.

Her attacker is said to have fled to Durban a few weeks after the crime, taking with him the stolen body parts.

Despite the savage nature of the attack, the case has barely registered with the authorities or even in the media.

But local ANC councillor Thembeka Dyantyi and Chief Tanduxolo Magadla, from the Magadla Administration Area, have championed the toddler’s cause.

Dyantyi said she only came to know of the incident in January this year when the family returned from Mthatha, having relocated briefly to be near a hospital.

She confirmed that the toddler’s mother was admitted to the Santa Tuberculosis Hospital just prior to the attack and left her daughter in the care of a relative.

The child’s father had been away on work.

“The baby was being cared for by a relative who sold her for muthi to her boyfriend.

“The woman confessed to me that she sold the child to her boyfriend because he said the baby is so beautiful. She even confessed to the police.”

The woman, who continued to live with the family after the incident, was never formally arrested but at some point police took her away, Dyanti said.

“The family said that she is their blood and they can’t throw her out. I got the police to remove her and I don’t know what they have done with her. We haven’t seen her since.”

Dyantyi said the woman’s boyfriend ran away to the Durban area after the attack.

“His friend is in contact with him and he has agreed to assist the police with information but the police are not interested in investigating this case,” she added.

“I even contacted the Department of Social Development to report the case but they have not come either.”

Dyantyi is meeting with Matatiele Mayor Momelelso Mbedla this week to open a trust account for the toddler.

“The child needs urgent medical treatment. She needs donors so that she can have plastic surgery. She is a real survivor and we need to rally around and help her.”

Chief Magadla said he had informed Premier Noxolo Kiviet personally about the toddler’s plight. “She is aware of the situation.

“I also contacted the regional social workers. They told me that they sent food hampers to the house but the child needs to treat her injuries, not just get food,” he added.

Spokesperson for Matatiele police Raphael Motloung said that a case of attempted murder is being investigated. “I can’t confirm who opened the case because I am not in the office. No arrests have been made as yet.”

Motloung said he could only comment later on claims made by the community that they had information on the perpetrator. He could not be reached when The Witness tried to contact him later.

Attempts to get comment from the provincial police headquarters and Kiviet were also unsuccessful.

• witness@feveronline.co.za

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