‘We have a lot of options’ – KZN MEC of Social Development responds to letter found with abandoned baby

The letter that was found alongside an abandoned baby this week. Picture: RUSA

The letter that was found alongside an abandoned baby this week. Picture: RUSA

Published Oct 6, 2022


Durban - The KZN MEC of Social Development, Nonhlanhla Khoza, has pleaded with mothers not to “dump” their babies.

Khoza expressed concerns on the number of mothers who resort to dumping their babies.

The MEC was commenting following the discovery of two babies found dumped in separate incidents on Monday and another one last month.

This week a baby was found abandoned in a bush in Verulam and there was a note, allegedly written by the mother, explaining her reasons for her actions.

The letter reads: “You might be wondering why I dumped my baby, don’t wonder, just help her.”

The letter writer urged people not to judge her but to call the authorities.

“I have spoken twice with social workers but they are delaying to assist.”

The writer says the system is “fragile”, adding “we can’t even abort”.

The baby, who is about 3 months old, was discovered by a person picking mangoes.

Reaction Unit SA’s Prem Balram said they found the baby in good health with a bottle of formula and nappies.

He said a female reaction officer fed the baby and changed her nappy.

The child was taken to a place of safety.

Police said a case of child abandonment was opened at Verulam SAPS.

MEC Khoza said it was devastating to see such despicable incidents of dumping of children.

Dumping a baby is a criminal offence’ – KZN Social Development MEC

She said dumping a child was a criminal offence and would never be tolerated.

“A 3-month-old baby was found abandoned in Verulam, north of Durban, with a note supposedly written by the mother, accusing social workers of delaying to respond to her request for help.

“However, the letter did give details regarding the identity and location of the social worker concerned.”

The department said a newborn boy was found in a pit latrine in Mbazwana.

“The residents of the rented property heard the baby cry and upon inspection they found an abandoned child. The child was taken to the nearby Mseleni Hospital, where he is reportedly recovering.”

Another child was thrown out of a hospital window in Newcastle last month and is in ICU.

“We encourage parents who are unable to care for their children to seek help at a clinic, hospital or the department. We have a lot of options made available by our government to ensure that we safeguard the children and we want to urge parents not to resort to dumping children regardless of situations they face. As the department, we have solutions available to help them and their children,” Khoza said.

She warned that those who continued to abandon children would face the might of the law.

“We urge mothers or parents who are not coping to instead make use of the available option to spare the lives of children,” she said.

‘Government has options’, says Social Development MEC

The government has provided options for mothers to cope with their challenges.

The department said once the mother had been advised by a medical practitioner that she could not terminate a pregnancy, she was referred to a hospital social worker.

“The hospital conducts an assessment while providing counselling.

“The assessment results in a referral to the Department of Social Development for further intervention.”

The MEC said social workers were trained in safety and risk assessment of both children and mothers.

“That assessment outcome will determine whether the child remains with the mother or is placed under the care of the department or other bodies we work with,” said Khoza.

The following options available for mothers:

A child can be removed and placed in temporary safe care within the family or a Child and Youth Care Centre.

Social workers will then develop what is called a care plan, which outlines what needs to be done to ensure that the mother is assisted and the child is reunited with the mother and family.

The department, in partnership with stakeholders, renders child protection services.

“We will then strengthen education and awareness on measures that are in place, having been put by government in order to ensure protection of children from any form of abuse or vulnerability at all times, Khoza said.

The MEC emphasised that communities can also play a significant role in curtailing child abandonment.

“As the society, we all have a role to play to ensure the protection of children. We have seen a lot of children abandoned or left in the hands of grandparents and foster parents. Although we understand that often circumstances leading to mothers abandoning babies can be complex, we urge parents to approach their nearest Social Development office so that they can get help and spare the life of a child,” said Khoza.

She appealed to anyone who found an abandoned child to contact the Department of Social Development, police and organisations that provide protection for children.

Termination of pregnancy is legal – KZN Health

Spokesperson for the KZN Department of Health Ntokozo Maphisa said: “As a Department, we would not like to speculate about what the writer meant, as we know nothing about the authenticity of the letter, the person who allegedly wrote it, or the circumstances of her pregnancy.

“Nevertheless, termination of pregnancy is legal in South Africa, which means that women who choose to go this route can terminate their pregnancy safely, under the care of professional nurses and doctors, without having to resort to unsafe and illegal ‘backstreet’ abortion practitioners.”

Maphisa said the baby referred to in this matter was reportedly found in Dawncrest.

“Legal and safe abortion is available at the nearby Tongaat Community Heath Centre (CHC), Phoenix CHC and Ndwedwe CHC.”

She said termination of pregnancy could only be provided according to what the law allowed, as per the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy (CTOP) Act No 92 of 1996.

“The law allows for termination of pregnancy (TOP) on demand by a pregnant woman within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

“However, as the pregnancy becomes more advanced, TOP can only be offered if specific criteria are met.

“Beyond 20 weeks, a pregnancy termination can only be offered under exceptional circumstances such as if continuing the pregnancy would threaten the life of the mother or baby.

“Therefore, there can be a barrier to safe and legal TOP, if the pregnant woman presents with an already advanced pregnancy.

“The law cannot be changed or broken, and so it is important that the community is educated about the legal prescripts in relation to TOP. Furthermore, women must be advised to seek care early during pregnancy, which will allow them the TOP option if that is what they choose.”