Johannesburg - When Valdez Salgado* picked up a copy of a local daily newspaper, he immediately recognised the baby on the front page as his own.
His baby girl Boitumelo, only 21 months old, was pictured bound and gagged, with brown masking tape, allegedly at the hands of Petite Bumper Day Care Centre owner Labeeba Truter.
The horrific images of the girl and screen grabs of her trying to free herself from her bonds at the creche’s bathroom were carried in the Daily Sun newspaper on Tuesday.
The tabloid quoted an insider saying the child had been bound for three hours to keep her quiet as Truter watched television.
The incident allegedly happened three weeks ago at the creche in Rosettenville, but on Tuesday was the first time Salgado heard of his daughter’s alleged abuse.
“My brother called me and asked me to buy the paper, he said there was a picture of a child who looked like mine.
“Truly, I bought it… and it didn’t matter that they covered her eyes, I knew it was her. I knew my baby,” the distraught father said on Tuesday.
He also watched the video of his daughter squirming on the bathroom’s tiled floor, trying to free herself, for the first time.
“How can you do this? If you’re human, how can you do something like this?” he asked.
The child’s mother left the child with Salgado when she was five months old.
Speaking to The Star, Truter denied any wrongdoing, saying a former employee – a teacher named only as Thandi – was the one who was “tainting her name” and spreading lies.
A frazzled Truter, confronted by officials from the local and provincial departments of Social Development and a pack of journalists, said she had been the one who tried to save the baby from the teacher.
She claimed to have found the teacher in the bathroom with the baby gagged. “I said to her ‘It’s k** what you’re doing. Take off that f****** s***, you want to give my place a bad name,” Truter said, in between taking a gulp of water and headache tablets.
“It’s what these teachers do when they move from one creche to the next. I want to lay a charge with the police because she’s dragging my name through the mud.”
But, social workers were not buying her story.
Truter first claimed to not have contact details for the teacher and did not even know her surname, then she claimed she did not have the child’s details nor those of her parents.
Truter’s unregistered day-care centre operates from her lounge area, an empty room with two teddy bears on the ground, and the outside veranda, where the 13 children aged between two and four play.
A panel-beating business operates within the yard, and cat litter is within reach of the toddlers walking in and out of the house.
Officials from the Gauteng Department of Social Development and Johannesburg Emergency Services, who found the centre was not environmentally compliant, closed it down on Tuesday.
A traumatised Salgado reported the matter at the Moffatview police station on Tuesday.
He moved his daughter – who he said was okay – to another creche in the area.
* Not their real names.