THE loss of a child is heartbreaking for any parent, but what’s even worse is not knowing how your child died or where they are buried. This is the pain that parents Sibusiso Mndaweni (33) and his girlfriend, Veliswa Sondamase (27) from Hebron, north of Pretoria, are living with. The couple welcomed their second child in 2008 and the first and last time they saw their child was when Veliswa gave birth to him.
LOSING THEIR BABY
Sibusiso and Veliswa welcomed their first child in February 2008, but a few months later, the child’s health deteriorated. When the couple took the child to a doctor, they learned that Veliswa was expecting their second child. Veliswa had a normal pregnancy and gave birth to a baby boy on 29 December 2008 at the Dr George Mukhari Hospital in GaRankuwa, north of Pretoria. “I rushed Veliswa to hospital on 27 December and she gave birth two days later. I received a call on 30 December from one of the nurses telling me to bring baby clothes. When I got to the hospital and asked about the baby, I was told that he was in an incubator and that the mother wasn’t doing so good. Veliswa didn’t even recognise me when I went to see her and I was told not to talk to her,” explains Sibusiso. He says there were times where he found her tied to a bed when he went to visit her and when he questioned this, he was told that she couldn’t sit still and kept pulling out the drips. “She also had marks on her chest, which I was told were from the drips as she kept pulling them out,” he says. Veliswa spent almost three months in hospital, but her condition was getting worse, so in March 2009, Sibusiso asked that she get transferred to her hometown in East London, Eastern Cape. “When we left Dr George Mukhari Hospital, no one could tell us where our baby was. I even lost my job trying to get to the bottom of this,” says Sibusiso.
TAKEN FROM PILLAR TO POST
While in East London, Veliswa consulted with a local doctor about her condition and was told that the medication she was given at Dr George Mukhari Hospital was for people living with a mental disorder, which left her with side effects that are still bothering her to this day. After her recovery, Veliswa returned to Pretoria in 2010 and the couple continued to search for their baby. They went back to the hospital to ask again about the whereabouts of their child, but were told that the only record the hospital had showed that Veliswa gave birth there in February 2008. “We had to go back to East London to fetch the referral letter they gave us in 2009 when Veliswa was transferred to East London to prove that she did actually give birth at the hospital in December 2008. We went back to the hospital with the evidence and were told that a woman named Maria Mnisi, who is related to Veliswa according to records, signed for the baby to be discharged. But we don’t know of any Maria Mnisi in Veliswa’s family,” says Sibusiso. After they were told about Maria taking their baby, the couple tried to open a case at the police station, but were referred to a social worker. The social worker investigated the case, but was unsuccessful. The couple says they were offered R2-million by the hospital to drop the matter. “The hospital offered us R2-million to drop the matter. Although we needed the money, it won’t bring us peace of mind. So we declined the offer.”
THE LEGAL ROUTE
In 2012, the couple decided to take the legal route and they met an attorney, Lawrence Kekana, through Sibusiso’s friend. Lawrence then promised to help them solve the matter even after Sibusiso told him that he couldn’t afford his services. “I told Lawrence about our poor financial situation and he said he would help us where he can. When we met him, I couldn’t even afford to pay rent and he advised me to look for a cheaper place,” says Sibusiso. “I found a place for us to stay, which Lawrence bought for us for R30 000. He continued to take care of us financially. He probably spent R24 000 on us until he told us in 2015 that he couldn’t help us with our case. When I asked him about the house and money he helped us with, he said we can keep the house as he helped us out of his goodwill.” Sibusiso says they went to see a social worker after this, who referred them to the Law Society of South Africa, where they wrote a letter explaining their case against Lawrence.
GIVING LEGAL ADVICE
The Law Society contacted Lawrence but he allegedly denied that the couple were his clients, saying he was only giving them legal advice. “I consulted with Mr Mndaweni and Ms Sondamase. I told them that I cannot do the matter as per our consultation, as the matter needed police investigation. I am not a police official and cannot take their instruction. I advised them to go and report the matter at the police station. They are not my clients and have never been,” Lawrence told the Law Society. Asked for comment, Lawrence says, “Why are you bothering me? Those people (Sibusiso and Veliswa) were told to wait for a confirmation letter from the Department of Health that will state who claimed the (R2-million) settlement money (from the hospital). You are the third journalist to call me about this.”