Her mother and a man believed to be her mother’s lover have been charged in connection with reports made to police on Friday - that the infant had been kidnapped during a hijacking - which now appear to have been false.
The baby’s mother had initially told police that her child had been kidnapped during a hijacking on Friday. Following a large-scale search, her car was recovered in Montclair some hours later but the baby was still missing.
Then police pulled over a car at the Mariannhill Toll Plaza on Sunday morning and found the baby with the man who is before court.
The baby’s mother allegedly gave the man her car and her baby, voluntarily.
The pair, who are not being named to protect the interests of the child, were granted bail of R1 000 each in the Durban Magistrate’s Court.
Public prosecutor Vaneshree Moodley said charges of kidnapping had been withdrawn. They would now face charges of fraud and defeating the ends of justice.
Speaking outside court, National Prosecuting Authority spokeswoman Natasha Kara said the infant would probably remain in the care of social services until the family court matter was dealt with.
Moodley said while the State acknowledged the public outcry, it was not likely the pair would try to evade trial.
Acting for the man, defence lawyer Andile Dakela read out an affidavit in which his client said he would plead not guilty, but did not disclose his defence.
For the woman, defence attorney Mfanafuthi Biyela said she was a mother of four and a teacher. He also said the woman’s husband had offered to contribute towards bail.
The identity of the baby’s father remains unknown as the man accused of taking her has claimed he is the child’s father. The paternity was not discussed in court on Wednesday.
A number of people attended court on Wednesday, in support of the baby at the centre of the saga. Among them was René Morcam, a Pietermaritzburg mother and part of a children’s rights group. “We started a Facebook group on Friday after she was reported kidnapped,” Morcam said, “And that group has united people from all different backgrounds”.
She heard about the “kidnapping” around 2pm on Friday, she said. “From then on, I cried about it constantly,” she said.
Asked what she thought of the accused having been released on bail, Morcam said within the community there was a feeling that they should remain behind bars. She said while resources had been wasted on searching for the baby, the situation had brought to light that her mother was possibly unfit to care for her.
“She put the child in danger,” she said.
The matter is back in court in May.