Durban - A young Durban father has been arrested for child trafficking after he allegedly tried to sell his 18-day-old son for R2 000 – to feed his whoonga addiction.
The man, 20, and his 19-year-old brother – who also has been charged with the crime – had allegedly been stopping random couples in Clairwood, on Saturday and offering the child for sale.
A taxi owner, appalled by their actions, called the police. Members of the Montclair Crime Prevention Unit arrested the pair at a whoonga drug den under the South Coast bridge near a sugar factory.
Drug activists say the incident is a frightening example of the devastating effect that whoonga – a cocktail of low grade heroin mixed with dagga – is having on addicts as the highly addictive drug continues its rampage through Durban communities. And they say babies often suffer the worst consequences as a result.
According to police sources the mother of the child had been arrested on drug charges a few days after giving birth, leaving the boy in the care of her boyfriend, an alleged drug addict who sleeps on the streets near Seaview.
“From what we gather the father was able to find a Good Samaritan in Rossburgh who looked after the child (for the first few days) as he was unable to,” said the source, who cannot be named as he is not allowed to speak to the media.
“A lady who runs a crèche in the same vicinity had even offered to adopt the baby permanently.
“However, the father decided on Saturday, probably hoping to make money for his next high, that he wanted his child back and went and fetched it from the woman who was looking after him,” the source said on Thursday.
Clutching the newborn, who had nothing more than a shawl over his body and half a bottle of baby milk, the father and his brother walked nearly 5km to Clairwood.
There, according to the source, they began approaching people asking if they wanted to buy the baby.
“We don’t know how many people they approached but a couple we have been able to track down said he approached them with an offer to sell the baby for R3 000.
“They could not believe what they were hearing and when questioning the pair, the father told them that it was his child and could even give it to them for R2 000. They refused,” he said.
The couple have since given a sworn statement to police.
The pair eventually left but were nabbed at a notorious drug den.
“He was smoking the whoonga with the baby in his hands.
“When he saw the police he ran. Fortunately we were able to catch him,” the source said.
According to officers, the baby was badly dehydrated, had turned pale and his veins “were popping out”.
“The officers thought the baby was in fact dead. It was so sad.
“But he was alive and we took him to Prince Mshiyeni (Memorial) Hospital.”
Police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, confirmed a case of trafficking a child was being investigated by the Montclair SAPS.
“Two suspects aged 19 and 20 were arrested and appeared
... in the Durban Magistrate’s Court.”
The father and his brother appeared in court on Monday and have been remanded in custody.
The baby has since been put in a place of safety on the Bluff.
Sam Pillay, director of the Anti Drug Forum, said it was not uncommon for addicts to sell their children.
“This is certainly not the first time,” he said.
“When a person is addicted to heroin and he wakes up in the morning, it is not negotiable whether he smokes or not.
“He needs it and will do anything to get a fix.
“Some addicts beg for money, other steal and some sell their babies.
“That is how desperate they are. That is just their reality.”
Linda Naidoo, an independent child rights activist in Durban, said the system was failing infant children born to addicts.
“Many years ago we had systems in hospital when after a child was born, the mother would be briefed on the care of the child and she would have been asked a whole lot of questions about her personal circumstances and her ability to take care of the child. After she went home a clinic nurse would visit her to ascertain the well-being of that child,” she said. “Unfortunately, that system does not exist any more. If something happens to any child after they leave the hospital, even if the child dies after a couple of months, nobody would know.”
Naidoo said the government needed to consider implementing checks and balances to track every child born.
“So many babies are dumped in garbage bins and pit latrines every day.
“There needs to be a better process of monitoring our babies,” she said.