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Pretoria - “I will never hurt my kids.” These were the words on Tuesday of a father accused of kidnapping his two young children from his estranged wife, who has termed him armed and dangerous.
Chantelle Joubert said her estranged husband, Willie Joubert, forcefully took their children, aged four and six, away from their shack on a smallholding in Donkerhoek at the weekend, while holding a gun to her head.
She claimed the 44-year-old man was abusive and violent towards her, and she was afraid of what he might do to the children.
Willie said he had rescued the children from their “abusive and crazy mother” who had fallen under the “bad influence” of her friends.
“I will never hurt my children. I don’t even give them a hiding - I don’t believe in that, I believe in talking things out, not shouting and hitting the child,” he told the Pretoria News on Tuesday.
He said he had never lifted a finger to hurt his wife.
“I am not that kind of person. I love Chantelle and I want to help her and fix this.” He said she had become an unstable mother, choosing a life of a social networking on her cellphone over properly caring for their children.
On Tuesday, he gave her an ultimatum. He said she had to quit her job in Pretoria and go to Durban, where he had fled to with the children. She should give their marriage and family a second chance.
Alternatively, he said, she could stay in Pretoria, under the influence of her bad friends, and never see her children again.
“I have no idea what I will do now,” Chantelle said in tears. “I just want my kids back,” she said.
Said Willie: “I can’t let my children go back there. It is an unstable environment. She doesn’t care for them properly, she forces the kids to go to bed at 6pm, so she can go drink and party with her friends on the plot. When my children ask her for bread because they are hungry she shouts at them and hits them with her fist because she is always busy on the phone and doesn’t want to see them.”
He said he was aware that a case of kidnapping had been opened against him, but said he was not doing anything wrong.
According to a law expert the Pretoria News spoke to, biological parents could not kidnap their children for purposes of criminal law. It was a civil matter.
“If there was no interim order then the father did not technically break any laws. Both parents can exercise their parental responsibilities and rights. Although it seems strange that there is no law that makes this a kidnapping, this is a situation where the children may be at risk of physical and emotional/ psychological harm which should make the police act to secure their safety,” the expert said.
Police spokesman Johannes Jatha confirmed that a case of kidnapping was being investigated, as well as pointing of a firearm.
He said the suspect was possibly in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Chantelle denied the allegations about her being an unstable mother. “He is lying, you can ask anyone that knows me. It is not true. He must just bring my children back.”
According to the anguished mother, who tried to make contact with her children on Saturday, she was brushed off by Willie.
“V**of jy mak mos k** vir my,” read a message from Willie to Chantelle.
“He told me that if I don’t leave him alone, he will kill himself and the kids. I didn’t know what to do. Now he wants me to go live with him in Durban, but how can I live with someone that hits me?”
She said Willie had become abusive in March this year after the death of their four-day-old baby.
“We were together for 10 years and he never showed any signs of being abusive until then.”
She said she had asked for a divorce and believed that Willie had taken the children from her to cause her pain. “He wants to hurt me.”
Willie said: “I told her if she doesn’t leave that place, she won’t see the children again, I will never let my children go back there. That’s not the kind of life I want for them.”
The law expert said that it was advisable for the parents to get legal assistance and go to the Children's Court in their area.
Police are investigating the matter.