‘Minister took my baby’

Women’s Minister Lulu Xingwana accused of ignoring abuse

A young mother has spoken of the months of abuse she endured while living under Women and Children Minister Lulu Xingwana’s roof.

Last week, Xingwana and her bodyguards “pulled” the woman’s baby from her grandmother’s arms.

The 27-year-old woman was the girlfriend of Xingwana’s nephew and the couple lived with their two-year-old daughter in his aunt’s ministerial residence – where she alleges he abused her.

She also says she told Xingwana about the alleged assaults, but she claims the minister did nothing.

Last Friday, Xingwana and her nephew, flanked by two bodyguards and three police officers, arrived at the woman’s home in rural Eastern Cape, where she took the toddler from her distraught grandmother.

But now all the child’s mother can do is wait for next month when she will battle her ex-boyfriend in the Mthatha High Court for custody of their daughter.

However, Xingwana, who is responsible for running government’s 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, strongly denies the woman’s claims, saying that when she told her she was being abused, she “encouraged her to report the matter to the police”.

“I advised her that she could even report the matter to the police officers who were on guard at my official residence. She is still encouraged to report these allegations?.?.?.?so that the police can, if necessary, even arrest him if he has committed the crime – despite the fact that he is my nephew.”

Xingwana also insists she is totally opposed to abuse of women and children.

“I lead the government department that I lead because I cannot tolerate the abuse of children and women. Those who are close to me know very well that I will never tolerate the abuse of any person anywhere, least of all in my own house.”

The young woman, from a village outside the Eastern Cape town of Mqanduli, who cannot be named to protect her child’s identity, claims she ended her relationship with Xingwana’s nephew because of his violent conduct.

When her baby was four months old, the young woman was employed as a cleaner with the department of public works at Xingwana’s Cape Town home and was later transferred to Xingwana’s ministerial residence in Pretoria.

It was there, she claims, that her boyfriend began threatening and battering her.

She says he pushed and slapped her face.

“This happened almost daily for about a month. Sometimes he insulted me, saying I was nothing but a poor girl without the help of his family and his aunt.

“He said his family gave me a job,” she said.

When she tried to break up with him in November 2011, she claims the abuse became worse, and he threatened to kill her and her child.

That day, she claims, the police heard her screams.

“The police on duty at the house that day came and asked him to stop what he was doing,” she said, adding that they reported the incident to Xingwana when she arrived home.

Xingwana, though, denies ever receiving such a report. Her nephew denies this ever took place. “I never laid my hands on her. Yes, we argued at times. I screamed at her, but to abuse her physically? Never,” he said.

The woman moved back to her mother’s Mqanduli home after she had phoned her numerous times to say she was being abused.

Her cousin said she received anguished phone calls too.

Then last Friday, her ex-boyfriend approached the Mthatha High Court for custody of their daughter.

His lawyer, Arnie Immerman, said they argued that the little girl could have a better life in Pretoria than in Mqanduli.

“The child was in Pretoria getting the best of everything – food, clothing and medical attention, everything of the best. If this were my child, I would be smiling from ear to ear that she would be treated like a princess in Pretoria, as compared to her living in a rural village in Mqanduli,” he said.

Judge Zamani Nhlangulela granted him an interim order, and he and Xingwana went to fetch her, the Daily Dispatch reported this week.

The child’s mother claims that she went to fetch the family elders and returned to see Xingwana’s BMW speeding away.

The little girl’s grandmother wept as she spoke of how the child was taken away from her.

“The minister and I struggled for the baby. We pulled her in different directions. I was determined not to let her go. I was overpowered by one of her bodyguards and a police officer. They pushed me down and manhandled me. They were very aggressive and physical,” she claimed.

But Xingwana denies this, saying they were determined not to traumatise the toddler.

“We were, however, met by people who did not seem to have regard for a court order. As soon as we arrived, the child ran to her father and was in her father’s hands for the whole time.”

Xingwana said the baby’s mother “will have an opportunity to convince the court?.?.?.?that it is in the best interests of the child” to stay with her.

The mother is distraught. “No one cares about the abuse I have been through. I love my daughter more than life and miss her dearly?.?.?.?I can’t even sleep.”

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