Johannesburg - Karabo Nale was only 3 years old when she died - bleeding profusely and alone.
The toddler’s death was brutal - she had been stabbed 99 times.
Her mother’s cousin was due to appear in the Odendaalsrus Magistrate’s Court on Thursday morning, accused of murder.
The woman, who lived under the same roof as Karabo, had taken her to the shops on Friday, but did not return, according to a close relative.
When a herder discovered the infant’s body on Sunday, he also found a packet of Nik Naks and sweets next to the little girl.
Karabo’s face was covered with a jersey.
The incident took place outside Welkom in Kutlwanong, Odendaalsrus, Free State.
The preschooler had started creche this year.
Her alleged killer, 23, was arrested on Monday by members of the Odendaalsrus Crime Prevention Unit.
“Police found an Okapi knife with blood stains on it and her clothes were also covered in blood. A post-mortem report revealed that the little girl was stabbed 99 times all over her body. The motive for the killing is unknown,” said spokeswoman Molebogeng Lechesa.
She said witnesses had told the police that the relative had left with Karabo on Friday to buy sweets and cakes. “However, they never returned home,” said Lechesa.
Karabo’s mother, Nomathemba Janki, said she had left the 3-year-old and her 13-year-old sister in her relative’s care.
Janki said she had invited the cousin to live with her earlier this year, mainly because she needed someone to look after Karabo when she came back from creche.
Janki, who works part-time, said she sometimes arrived late from work.
On Friday evening, when she got home, her teenage daughter told her Karabo and her aunt had gone to the shops and not returned.
“I went looking for them at neighbours’ and relatives’ homes, but they were not there. I continued with the search on Saturday and Sunday, but I couldn’t find them,” the emotional woman said.
She reported her daughter missing at the police on Saturday.
On Sunday, while searching and hoping that the suspect would arrive at a relative’s home, where she was waiting, a neighbour informed her about a child discovered dead in the veld.
At the scene, the frantic woman was greeted by a police vehicle and a crowd of residents.
“At first, I was told I could not come close to my child. But later on, they called me to check if it was indeed my child. It was really painful. What she did to my child is unforgivable. I am hurting,” Janki said, holding back tears.
She is not the only one affected by the gruesome murder.
The 23-year-old’s brother, who asked not to be named, said he was shocked and angered by the murder too.
The suspect has been described by her brother and Janki as a lonely person, who isolated herself from others a great deal.
The brother said his sister “never opened up, she never spoke to people if she had problems”.
“She always said she was okay. Yet you could see that she is not well. She didn’t live a normal life like any other person.
“We took her to churches for prayers, but I think she really needs help,” the man said, adding that his sister might be suffering from mental illness.
The families of the woman taken into police custody, and the dead child are distant relatives.
Her brother condemned his sister’s alleged actions.
“Nothing would ever bring back that child,” he said, adding that he had been to Janki’s house to express his condolences and to comfort the family.
Janki described her daughter as a sweet girl, who was very talkative.
“I’m going to miss her. Especially when she would wake me up and ask for breakfast,” she said.
Karabo will be buried on Friday in Kutlwanong.