Bizarre tug-of-love battle for little girl

Police and social workers were attempting to unravel the conflicting claims following the removal of two young children from a Port Elizabeth house this week Picture:
Police and social workers were attempting to unravel the conflicting claims following the removal of two young children from a Port Elizabeth house this week

Mystery deepens around unknown baby

Two young children have been removed from their Port Elizabeth home in the wake of a bizarre “tug-of-love” battle in which a Pretoria woman claims to be the mother of the older child, who she alleges was abducted four years ago.

The family taking care of the six-year-old insist she was placed under their guardianship years ago because her Johannesburg-based mother was unable to care for her.

But even as police and social workers were attempting to unravel the conflicting claims this week, the mystery took on a more sinister tone yesterday when a four-month-old baby girl was also removed by authorities from the same home.

The family claimed they were also caring for the infant at the request of another mother, whom police have been unable to trace.

The identities of the children – who are not linked to either the Pretoria woman or the PE family – are being protected.

The riddle surrounding the children began when Rose Gwachara, 34, arrived at a house in Campbell Street, Central, claiming to be the older child’s biological mother, saying her daughter had been kidnapped in Gauteng four years ago.

Gwachara accused the family of abducting the child from a Carltonville creche in Johannesburg in 2013 when she was a two-year-old.

Last weekend, Gwachara travelled to Port Elizabeth from Pretoria – where she now lives – in an attempt to find answers, claiming to have received an SMS which contained details of her missing daughter’s whereabouts.

By late Wednesday, police and social workers had removed the girl from the family’s home pending a maternity test to determine whether she is in fact Gwachara’s daughter. Humewood police detectives have also requested Carletonville detectives to travel to the Bay to assist with the case.

Gwachara – who moved to South Africa from Zimbabwe in 2006 – took a bus to Port Elizabeth after receiving a tip-off from an unknown person that a girl from Johannesburg was living at a house in Campbell Street.

An interpreter had to assist as Gwachara, who is unemployed and has been sleeping at the police station since Saturday, claims not to be able to speak English.

“I have been searching for her since she went missing in 2013. She was two years old when I last saw her and I have been to the police station in Carletonville several times to get answers, but they just did not want to help,” she said, speaking through a Shona translator.

Gwachara explained that four months after her daughter was born, the child’s father – who was from Nigeria – died.

“I then took her to a creche and one day, in 2013, I went back to fetch her. They told me that my boyfriend at the time had taken her home. That was the last time I saw either of them – they just disappeared,” she said.

“I went to the police station and they kept saying they would assist, but they did nothing and never called me. Eventually, only last year, I managed to open a case [of abduction].

“I want her back and I need to know if this is her. I came straight down to Port Elizabeth with no money or anything. I know no one here but will stay until I can get answers.”

The six-year-old had been taken care of by Barbara Kambanga, who insists she has known the girl since her birth six years ago.

“We are all confused and irritated by this. This woman just rocked up and accused us of stealing her child,” Kambanga’s sister Nyasha Kambanga, 42, said.

Nyasha described the situation as a nightmare, saying it had placed a lot of stress on her family.

“Barbara cannot talk right now, she is very stressed. The sad part is that this is all a big misunderstanding . . . we know for a fact this woman who claims to be the mother is not.

“The mother lives in Johannesburg and she asked us to take care of her [child] shortly after it was born. We are the guardians. She goes to school here in Port Elizabeth and has friends,” she said.

Nyasha said her aunt owned a creche in Johannesburg where they and a friend lived.

“The [friend], who lived there then, had a child but was unable to take care of her due to financial reasons. She asked us to take care of her. Since then we have been looking after her.

“This woman is clearly confused and is being told by someone we have her child, which is a lie. We want to get the DNA test so we can prove this woman is lying.”

Humewood CPF chairman Mlungisi John said they had requested the alleged mother from Johannesburg to come to Port Elizabeth with her documentation, but she had failed to arrive.

“[Gwachara] has documents to show there is a child, but now confirmation is needed to prove this is in fact the child she has paperwork for.”

John was also roped in to assist when the four-month-old baby was found in the same house.

“We questioned them [the family] on the second child and they claim [the baby girl] belongs to a woman who works at a restaurant in Summerstrand. Again, they claim to be looking after the girl. We followed up on their story and yet again, there is no such person.”

Humewood commander Brigadier Ronald Koll said both children had been removed due to the conflicting versions and no proof or birth certificates.

“There is a case of abduction that we are investigating and these conflicting versions need to be verified.

“For the children’s wellbeing, both girls were removed and placed at a place of safety while our detectives try to gather all the facts. Social workers have been called in to assist.”

Social Development district manager Thembile Ngqubayi said neither of the children appeared to have suffered abuse. “There are no signs or anything to suggest abuse of any kind at this stage.”

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