Cape Town - A miracle turned misery. These are the sentiments of the mother of missing 3-month-old baby, Ky-Isha Meniers, as the search continues a month after her disappearance.
Mother of seven children, Francis Meniers, 41, still struggles with questions and replays scenarios in her head of how she could have handled the situation differently so that she could still hold her baby girl - with whom she shares a birthday.
Meniers now does fewer errands for people in her community, which provided an income for her and her family as she deals with the trauma of her child having been kidnapped on April 30.
“All I can think about is if the woman who has my child, if she calls herself a mother, knows how to care properly for my child? Does she know my child loves to be talked to? Does she know my child can’t wear just any nappy as she will get a rash? Does she know how to keep my child warm and safe? These are the questions I sit with when I think of where she could possibly be.
“At the time, when this woman approached me, I had declined her kind offers at first because I was in a hurry to get back home with the errands shopping that I was doing on the day. But then, when she insisted, I thought this was a miracle happening, and I had still told my neighbour about the goodwill of this woman who offered to buy wipes, nappies and milk for my baby. But now I’m left with so much hurt and many questions after I accepted what seemed like a Good Samaritan coming on my path,” said Meniers.
And while she receives counselling twice a week, Meniers said she still struggles to go to the store where she last held Ky-Isha.
An emotional Meniers said: “I will go to the other shop around the corner where I always go to buy stuff as well. Since Ky-Isha’s disappearance, I can’t bring myself to go back to Shoprite. Because to me, it feels like that is where I last saw her and that is where she didn’t come back.”
Meniers, who gave birth to Ky-Isha at the entrance gate of her home on the morning of February 23, said while it feels like there is silence around the search for Ky-Isha after a media frenzy, she is still supported by friends in the community and her family.
“A lot was said in the days after her disappearance, and the words cut deep when I was accused of having sold my baby, but the community has remained supportive, and we continue being hopeful that she will be found. I was even asked to take a polygraph test, and I immediately agreed because I know that I am being honest and my priority is and will always be to find my child.
“My plea to the person who took my child is to please just bring her back. I am and will always be Ky-Isha’s mommy, even if you took her away from me. If you really have the best interests of her at heart, you will bring her back to us. We miss her so much,” said Meniers.
Ky-Isha’s month-long disappearance and kidnapping is highlighted as National Child Protection Week concludes after being observed between May 29 and June 5.
Women and child rights organisation, Ilitha Labantu, appealed to the public to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of children.
Spokesperson Siyabulela Monakale said: “This is not only limited to Child Protection Week but on a daily basis because what we have observed is that there is a strong need for the implementation of stringent measures that will ensure the safety and protection of children. And sadly enough, children, particularly in the Cape Flats communities of the Western Cape, are exposed to high levels of violence, and this exposure places them at greater risk of victimisation. The protection of children needs to encompass a holistic approach that includes education, awareness, access to resources and access to fundamental protective services.”
Meanwhile, SAPS spokesperson, Joseph Swartbooi, confirmed that the search for Ky-Isha continues and is prioritised.
“The missing baby has not yet been reunited with her parents. The investigating officer in the matter is going the extra mile, following up on all available leads to ensure a breakthrough. Bishop Lavis Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit are investigating a case of kidnapping,” said Swartbooi.
MEC for Community Safety and Police Oversight, Reagen Allen, who visited the family last month, said they were still engaging with SAPS on the matter.
“We continue to keep baby Ky-Isha in our prayers and thoughts while wishing her mother, family, and loved ones continued strength. We've continued to engage the organisation in the Bishop Lavis area that has been assisting the mother, along with SAPS.
“The feedback that we have received from SAPS is that Ky-Isha is yet to be found, and there are no new developments to report at this stage. As the investigation continues, my plea is that any person who might have information as to where Ky-Isha can be found should immediately contact SAPS, so that this bundle of joy can safely be returned to her mother and loved ones,” said Allen.
Allen added that there was concern over the increase of these types of incidents.
“The police's crime stats between April 21 - December 21 show a decline in kidnappings from 246 incidents decreasing to 219 across the province. This is still 219 incidents too many, and as we make our way to the end of child protection week, I'd like to say that we cannot fail our children. I'd like to call on parents, neighbours and communities to be vigilant. Let's ensure we move in groups and also to not let children play by themselves, wherever this might be possible,” said Allen.