‘Debt made me sell baby’

Police take evidence of the duplicate notes given to a mother (wearing the black and white top) who was arrested after allegedly selling her child over Gumtree. (Supplied to The Witness)
Police take evidence of the duplicate notes given to a mother (wearing the black and white top) who was arrested after allegedly selling her child over Gumtree. (Supplied to The Witness)

Pietermaritzburg - Wiping away tears that streamed down her cheeks, a pretty 20-year-old woman said yesterday that a R24 000 debt was behind her decision to advertise her ­19-month-old son for R5 000 on the ­Internet.

The woman told regional court ­magistrate Rose Mogwera that her ­boyfriend, who once accepted ­responsibility for the child and paid maintenance for the boy, found out he was not the father and demanded she pay back the R24 000 he had forked out.

The toddler is currently being cared for by the Social Welfare Department, the court heard.

Yesterday the young mother abandoned her familiar long-haired wig in favour of head-hugging plaits.

Wearing a short-sleeved grey jersey over a bright orange top, she also wore bright pink lipstick for yesterday’s appearance.

However, the woman produced a sunshine yellow headscarf and hid her face from view when a television camera focused on her during a brief adjournment.

The Witness has not named the ­woman or shown her face for the protection of the child she sold in a police trap at a fast food outlet on October 15.

In her plea read out by legal aid lawyer Jeffrey Mthimkhulu, the woman said she fell pregnant in 2013 when she was 17 years old.

“I was no longer attending school. I was in love with two boyfriends. When I became pregnant, I didn’t know who was the actual biological father but I told the two of them that I was pregnant,” she said.

The woman said one boyfriend denied paternity and disappeared.

The other said he wanted to see the baby first.

“He then saw the baby in February and accepted it was his. He then started to support the child. He gave me R1 300 every month from February 2014.”

The woman said this year they had an argument and her boyfriend demanded DNA tests. The couple and the baby were all subjected to DNA testing.

Two weeks later her boyfriend sent her an SMS saying he was excluded as the ­biological father.

In September, she placed an ­advertisement advertising the sale of her 19-month-old son for R5 000.

“Two days after placing the ­advertisement on the Internet, I received a telephone call from an Indian female. She told me she was interested in the child and that she was going to call me later as she did not have any cash.”

The woman (an undercover police ­officer) called back after a few days, ­saying she had received a loan and they agreed to meet at a KFC.

“I went to KFC at approximately 10 am and the lady kept calling me to check how far I was. The lady told me she was wearing a pink shirt and she was waiting for me at the door of KFC.

“We then went into the KFC and she asked me what must she buy for my son and I said he only eats cereal. The lady then bought me a bottle of Coke and an ice cream cone.”

The lady asked to hold her child and she gave him to her.

“She asked me if she could give me the money and I said, ‘Yes’. The money was in a bank plastic bag which she took out from her handbag and told me to count it, which I did. I counted R5 000 cash in R200 bank notes which I put into my handbag. She asked me if I wanted to leave and I said, ‘Yes’.”

The woman was arrested as she left.

As the court interpreter read the ­statement back to the woman, she ­occasionally nodded her head, while wiping tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand.

After convicting the woman of human trafficking and two related charges, Mogwera agreed to release her on bail of R2 500 pending her next court ­appearance on February 29.

She is to remain under house arrest and to report twice a week to a police station.

Mogwera requested state advocate Val Dafel to refer the woman to a ­psychologist.

The defence has also requested other pre-sentencing reports.

The Witness was told that a charge of human trafficking may attract a ­sentence of life imprisonment, or a fine of R100 000.

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