After nine months of separation, a Cape Town woman has finally been reunited with her little girl in a foreign country.
And it's perfect timing for the mother, who is overjoyed that she can celebrate her daughter's fifth birthday this week while they wait for the girl's emergency passport to make the almost 5 000km trip home.
The mother's identity has been withheld to protect the identity of the minor child.
In an ordeal which would give most parents sleepless nights, the mother fought to have the girl returned to South Africa after the child's father took her to Burundi in October.
He wanted his family to see her but never brought her back in December as promised.
Instead, he left the girl with his family in Bujumbura while he went to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to pursue job opportunities.
The child's mother had no luck with local police, Interpol and the Family Advocate, who advised that they could not assist because Burundi was not a signatory to the Hague Abduction Convention.
The treaty provides shared civil remedies for abductions among partner countries.
Thanks to the help of advocate Vera Kruger, who acted pro bono, the mother was able to secure an order from Western Cape High Court Judge Mushtak Parker, declaring the child's retention unlawful and allowing her to bring her back home.
The parents had been living together as partners for the last 13 years.
After residing in South Africa for 15 years, the father went to visit his family and returned promptly two months later. In September 2018, he asked the mother for consent to take the child for a family visit between October and December 2018, she said.
In an affidavit, she said she became concerned one week into the holiday because the child's father had acted differently and had reduced contact.
He saw a medical professional and was found to be suffering from depression and anxiety.
'I was devastated'
"In and during December 2018... [he] advised me that he was admitted to a clinic due to his depression and that he would have to stay in Burundi for another month," the mother stated. "He begged me not to collect the minor child from Burundi as she was his only motivation to get up in the mornings."
While she was hesitant, she allowed the stay to be extended for a short while.
She also forked up money to pay for updated visas for the two and took out two loans to pay for their flight tickets back home in May.
But she was shocked when he told her in May that he was not bringing the girl back and would instead leave her with his mother until he returned from the UAE.
In an email, which News24 has seen, he explained to her that he wanted to be able to secure a better future for their daughter and would bring her back to South Africa once he had found his feet.
"I was devastated and could not believe what I heard," the mother said in her affidavit.
All she could think about was how the girl's paternal grandmother could not speak English, she was not enrolled in any crèche, and was missing her appointment at Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital for severe eczema.
She explained in court papers that she had to seek psychological support for insomnia and anxiety.
"No person should be allowed to suffer the way I have."
Thankfully, the two were finally reunited last week.
A humble Kruger said she was grateful for the support received from different stakeholders who played a part in bringing about the happy ending, including Parker who was willing to assist her in chambers with the order.
"To me, it feels like a huge achievement, given the fact that there is no law that governs a situation where a parent abducts a child and you are not part of the signatory of the Hague Convention for abductions," she said in an interview on Tuesday.
Kruger said the two were expected to return to their home in Khayelitsha, Cape Town in the next few days.