Res­cued as a baby, beaten to death at 3

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - LEE RONDGANGER AND SIYAB­ULELA DZANIBE

A CHILD found beaten to death at her home in Chatsworth, Dur­ban, last week was res­cued on that city’s beach­front when she was just six weeks old after al­legedly be­ing sold to a man for R100, ac­cord­ing to the po­lice.

The Star has es­tab­lished that metro po­lice of­fi­cers res­cued her as an in­fant on June 9, 2011 at North Beach.

The girl, whose fa­ther is in prison in Cape Town, was liv­ing with her grand­mother when she died.

She had been placed there by Child Wel­fare so­cial work­ers act­ing in terms of a court or­der.

On Thurs­day, the po­lice were called to the home to re­move her bat­tered body.

She had ap­par­ently suf­fered sev­eral in­juries, in­clud­ing cig­a­rette burns, which has raised ques­tions about whether Child Wel­fare failed her.

But the pro­tec­tive agency has de­nied the al­le­ga­tion and said reg­u­lar vis­its were made over the past three years.

Child Wel­fare in­sisted there were no signs of abuse dur­ing those vis­its, but ad­mit­ted the or­gan­i­sa­tion was ham­pered by a se­ri­ous short­age of so­cial work­ers and swamped by thou­sands of cases in Chatsworth alone.

The lit­tle girl’s 55-year-old grand­mother and 31-year-old mother have been taken into po­lice cus­tody pend­ing the re­sults of the post-mortem.

Her two sib­lings are stay­ing with a rel­a­tive.

The chil­dren’s pa­ter­nal grand­par­ents ar­rived from their home in Cape Town yes­ter­day.

A metro po­lice of­fi­cer who helped res­cue her three years ago said she was heartbroken that the child had been found mur­dered.

“It broke us back then when we found her on the beach. She was this tiny lit­tle girl, six weeks old, with the most beau­ti­ful eyes.

“When we took her in, there were so many peo­ple who wanted to adopt her,” said the po­lice­woman, who can­not be named as she is not au­tho­rised to speak about the case.

“Some­how, she fell through the cracks and ended up back with the mother and grand­mother.”

But Chatsworth Child Wel­fare pres­i­dent Lo­gan Naidu in­sisted that after the courts had placed the child with the grand­mother, so­cial work­ers vis­ited the home sev­eral times.

In Fe­bru­ary, the court or­der ex­pired for the tem­po­rary place­ment of the girl, and so­cial work­ers had to get a dis­trict sur­geon to ex­am­ine her in or­der for them to make the grand­mother her le­gal guardian.

“The dis­trict sur­geon checked her phys­i­cally and did not find any­thing,” Naidu said.

He said the last visit from so­cial work­ers was four months ago.

“When we did our last su­per­vi­sion, we didn’t find any signs of phys­i­cal abuse.”

Naidu said their Child Wel­fare cen­tre had 10 so­cial work­ers deal­ing with about 5 000 chil­dren a year.

He ex­plained that the short­age of re­sources was one of the is­sues they were faced with in their need for con­stant su­per­vi­sion. He said they needed 30 more so­cial work­ers.

“I can as­sure you, we are do­ing our best at this point in time, and from our side.

“We are al­ready in­ves­ti­gat­ing. The so­cial worker deal­ing with the child has been asked to give a full writ­ten re­port on the is­sue. We have worked with him for a while.”

Naidu said that while com­mu­nity anger over the death of the child was jus­ti­fied, they should not blame Child Wel­fare.

Asked if the or­gan­i­sa­tion would do any­thing dif­fer­ently in light of the in­ci­dent, Naidu said: “We do ev­ery­thing by the book.

“Over the pe­riod of time, there were no signs of abuse.

“We have re­ports of our su­per­vi­sion in our of­fices to prove this.

“The only is­sue is re­sources. We are re­spon­si­ble for the child and other sib­lings, but that doesn’t mean we are do­ing vis­its ev­ery day or ev­ery week,” he said.

Ncumisa Fan­desi, spokes­woman for KwaZulu-Natal So­cial De­vel­op­ment MEC Weziwe Thusi, said yes­ter­day they were aware of the mur­der.

“Our so­cial work­ers are work­ing with the po­lice,” she said.

WHEN HOME’S NOT A SAFE PLACE: Ted­dies on the se­cu­rity gate of a Chatsworth house where a tod­dler was found dead on Thurs­day.

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