One of two girls – a six-year-old and a baby – who were removed from a house in Richmond Hill by social workers, has been returned to her mother, while the other will stay in a place of safety pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations of abduction.
The latest development comes in the wake of a bizarre “tug-of-love” battle in which a Pretoria woman claimed last week to be the mother of the older child, who she alleges was abducted from a Johannesburg creche four years ago.
The Port Elizabeth family taking care of the six-year-old insists she was placed under their guardianship years ago because her Johannesburg based mother could not care for her.
The mystery deepened on Friday when a four-month-old girl was also removed by authorities from the same house in Port Elizabeth.
The family living there claimed they were also caring for the child at the request of another mother.
The identities of the children – who are not linked to either the Pretoria woman or the Port Elizabeth family – are being protected.
The removal of the girls comes after Rose Gwachara, 34, arrived in Port Elizabeth from Pretoria, claiming her daughter had been abducted from a Johannesburg creche four years ago.
Gwachara told police she had received a tip-off that a six-year-old girl living in a house in Campbell Street had been kidnapped and insisted she was the child’s biological mother.
When police investigated, they found the six-year-old as well as the four-month-old girl – not linked to Gwachara – in the same house.
Police were initially unable to find the mother of the baby who, they had been told, worked at a Summerstrand restaurant.
The mother was eventually reunited with the little girl, who had spent the weekend in a place of safety.
The occupant of the house, Barbara Kambanga, insists she has known the older child since her birth six years ago, saying she was looking after the child who was the daughter of a friend living in Johannesburg.
Detectives from Johannesburg are expected to arrive in Port Elizabeth to assist with the investigation.
Yesterday, Social Development district manager Thembile Ngqubayi said police had confirmed that the documentation for the four-monthold child was in order.
“A woman came forward claiming to be the mother of the child on Friday,” he said.
“This was verified by the police this week and the child was reunited with her mother.”
However, the six-year-old will remain in Social Welfare’s care after the court granted the department custody pending the outcome of any criminal case.
“The police are trying to establish who the biological mother really is,” Ngqubayi said.
“Our role is to assess and work with the child who appears to be doing well in our care.”
Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said detectives were verifying documents and claims made by both Gwachara and Kambanga.
“Only once all the [DNA test] results and the paperwork are validated will we have clarity.” she said.