Hero cop hailed for saving baby
Feels good, says officer who caught tot flung off roof during land chaos
A modest but double-quick metro police officer who saved a toddler who was flung off a rooftop by her father was hailed a hero on Friday, while a war of words has erupted over the land evictions which are at the core of the frightening incident.
“I saved a life and it feels good,” Constable Luyolo Nojulumba told a media briefing, following the shocking sequence of events which saw the one-year-old girl being thrown into the air during the demolition of illegal shacks.
Dramatic scenes played out in the Joe Slovo informal settlement, near KwaDwesi, on Thursday where there was a heavy police presence as the SAPS, metro police and municipal officials started demolishing shacks built on illegally occupied municipal land.
The evictions in Joe Slovo have sparked angry exchanges between Bay city officials over how the administration is handling the issue.
The father, with the assistance of a woman identified as the toddler’s mother, had defiantly climbed onto the roof of the last shack still standing with his child after residents had urged him to do so.
But after attempts by an SAPS member to reason with him, a scuffle between the two ensued, during which the 38-year-old man flung his daughter off the corrugated iron roof – to the horror of onlookers.
However, the swift action by Nojulumba ensured the infant was unharmed.
The entire episode was captured in a series of dramatic images.
The father, who was arrested on a charge of attempted murder, will appear in court on Monday.
While humbly insisting yesterday he had just been doing his job, Nojulumba, 27, was described as “Nelson Mandela Bay’s hero” by metro police chief Yolanda Faro.
Explaining the circumstances around the incident, Nojulumba said: “We were instructed to safeguard the community who were already angry [as] we continued demolishing the shacks – but when we got about halfway we noticed a man sitting on the roof of a shack.
“Later on, when we returned to the shack, we were told to safeguard the baby [he was holding] and surrounded the shack.”
Nojulumba, a father of three, said at no stage had he flinched about catching the little girl.
“The father let go of the baby and I managed to catch her while the mother was disturbing us, telling us she will catch her – but she wanted to see her land on the ground.”
A Port Elizabeth man has been arrested after he flung his child from the roof of his shack while resisting the demolition of the structure.
Faro said: “If he did not [act] swiftly to catch the baby, it would be clear what would have happened – his instincts kicked in very quickly.
“It is a very proud moment for us. He is actually the hero of Nelson Mandela Bay as well as the metro police.”
Faro noted that while the child was being dangled in the air, she had been screaming. But once safely in Nojulumba’s arms, she was “calm and even fell asleep on the way to the police station”.
Nojulumba said: “I can’t understand or believe that a father could do something like that.
“I knew instinctively that I needed to catch her. I feel very proud, but this was just the beginning of bigger [tasks] that lie ahead for us as metro police.”
Nojulumba received a letter of commendation and a secondary badge for his heroic efforts.
Following the incident, the infant was returned to her mother while the Motherwell Cluster Family, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit is investigating.
When Weekend Post visited the 35-year-old mother at Joe Slovo yesterday, she had started to explain her housing predicament when a group of protesters stormed the shack and forcefully removed the journalists.
Moments earlier she had briefly explained that she had been appealing to the former and current councillors for the area for help in acquiring a site on which to build a home – but to no avail.
Meanwhile, in a strongly worded letter to city manager Johann Mettler, ANC councillor Rory Riordan has accused the city of defying a council resolution by evicting land invaders without the council’s approval.
Riordan wrote that the January council decision made it clear that a majority council decision had to be sought before the metro acted against land invaders.
“It has just been brought to my attention, again, that forced removals are under way.”
Riordan said that this flew in the face of the resolution which prohibited evictions until certain actions were taken, which had not yet been taken.
“As such, the removals are both illegal and actionable,” he wrote.
“The decision of council of January 25 is law until a court has ruled otherwise.
“Please stop the forced removals, let’s stop this brutality and get a manageable solution to a very vexatious problem.”
However, the municipality’s political head of human settlements, Nqaba Bhanga, believes Riordan is irresponsible and hell-bent on creating slums in the townships.
“Anywhere that there’s land invasion, we are removing them. The law is very clear on that.
“Land grabs cannot be condoned and even President Cyril Ramaphosa said the law-enforcement authorities must act against those invading land illegally,” Bhanga said.
He said there was anarchy in the city in terms of the way in which various pockets of vacant land were being occupied daily.
“It’s becoming uncontrollable, spreading like wildfire. We’re heading to a situation of instability and the city is going down because of all these shacks creeping up,” Bhanga said.
He said the Joe Slovo land that had been occupied by dwellers was space earmarked for housing development for residents on the housing list.
“They want to occupy land for houses that are meant for other people.
“We cannot allow such anarchy. We are looking into mechanisms to address this problem.”
Responding to Riordan’s letter, Bhanga said: “Councillor Riordan is committed to making our townships unstable.
“How do you call a meeting to take a council decision when people are invading every day?
“How many meetings would we have?”
- Additional reporting by Rochelle de Kock