Social welfare officials move to protect well-being of Zephany Nurse
AWORLD-RENOWNED child justice expert arrived in Cape Town yesterday to assist a teenager at the centre of one of South Africa’s most sensational kidnap sagas – amid fears for the girl’s well-being.
Pretoria-based Ann Skelton, former head of the United Nations Child Justice Project, confirmed yesterday that she would meet Zephany Nurse, stolen from Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital in 1997 when she was just three days old, today.
Zephany, now 17, and her 14-year-old biological sister recently ended up in the same high school, where pupils noticed a startling physical resemblance.
Police were alerted and the woman Zephany knew as her mother was arrested. The story has since made international headlines.
However, the media hype has alarmed social welfare officials who fear for Zephany’s psychological well-being.
They say the teenager, who is in protective care, faces a tough mental challenge in the coming months.
She is reportedly close to her “foster” mother, as well as to the biological sister who befriended her at school.
Yesterday, Western Cape Social Development MEC Albert Fritz threatened legal action to protect Zephany from harmful comments and speculation.
“If necessary, I will get a court order to stop family and friends from making comments,” he said.
“Lots of people are offering the story to the media, but they need to think of the trauma this girl is going through.
“The child is very confused. We are very worried. People are not adhering to the agreement to protect the girl.”
Skelton, head of the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria, said Zephany’s case was complicated and she needed to consult with her before making any further comment.
Johannesburg clinical psychologist Nicky Jordan, a specialist in child and adolescent psychotherapy, said the case had a tragic ripple effect.
“The tragedy is that one criminal act has had an effect on so many people,” Jordan said.