South Africa: Toddlers Abandoned in Room for Almost Five Days

15 November 2019

Unclear why authorities took long to respond

In a shocking case of child abuse, two toddlers were left locked in a room for almost five days before social workers intervened and took them to a place of safety. Several questions are being asked, however, as to why the children were abandoned in the first place and why the authorities took so long to respond.

The two toddlers, aged two and four, were spotted on Sunday where they were standing on a windowsill of one of the rooms at the back of Cloud's End Hotel, just outside Louis Trichardt. A reporter, Bernard Chiguvare, noticed them when trying to investigate where the sounds of crying children were coming from. Chiguvare rents a room not far from the one where the children were found.

"I heard faint sounds of children crying the previous day, and I was wondering why the mother was not attending to them," says Chiguvare. The next morning, he spotted the children and alerted the caretaker at the hotel. They gave some food and water to the toddlers through an open window.

"Every time the children heard footsteps around their room they started crying, anticipating that it was their mother," says Chiguvare. With the bits of information that the children could supply and what Chiguvare knew, he could piece together what had happened.

Incidentally, Chiguvare was at the Louis Trichardt Magistrate's Court on Friday morning to follow up on some cases. While there, he noticed a group of sex workers appearing in Court B on charges of public indecency. The mother of the toddlers turned out to be one of the accused. "They were all informed that they either had to pay a R1,000 fine or spend one month in jail," says Chiguvare.

The woman was apparently taken to prison without informing the court that she had two children waiting at home. She left her room at Cloud's End on Thursday night, leaving a loaf of bread and some cold drinks for the toddlers. She was picked up by the police during the night and appeared in court the following morning.

On Monday morning, when no relative or friend of the mother had arrived, the management at Cloud's End Hotel forced open the door of the room to free the toddlers. The room where the children were staying was in a disgusting condition. The bucket that the two toddlers was using as a toilet was full and the smell was almost unbearable.

The matter was reported to the police and the Department of Social Development. For the remainder of the day, the children were monitored and given food and something to drink.

On Tuesday, when still nothing had been done to take the children to a place of safety, more phone calls were made to the various authorities. Only late on Tuesday afternoon did social workers visit the hotel and collect the toddlers.

A representative of Sisonke, a movement trying to assist sex workers and protect their rights, spoke to Limpopo Mirror and said that they tried to educate women and explain what must be done when they had young children. "We encourage all our members not to act against the law as they risk being arrested. Sex work is just like any other form of work. A sex worker should have someone handy to look after her children when she is out working. In case you are arrested, the police should be aware that you have children at home who do not have anyone to look after them. They will advise you on what to do," she said.

Co-published with Limpopo Mirror

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