Johannesburg - A mother, 19, from Orange Farm township, south of Johannesburg, was arrested a day after her toddler was found walking on a dark highway.

Police say the woman was found at a friend’s house and taken into custody late on Friday night.

She’s being held at the Orange Farm police station, and is expected to appear in court early in the week.

Provincial spokeswoman Obakeng Mabaso said the mother was facing charges of child abandonment, but there was a possibility of more charges being added.

On Thursday night passing motorists and Joburg metro police spotted a 16-month-old boy on the centre line of the N1 highway, not far from the township, but on a stretch of road with no nearby houses – raising suspicions that the child had been dumped there.

A motorist who had swerved to avoid hitting the toddler managed to stop and get him off the road, before handing him over to passing metro police.

The child was described as frightened, hungry, tired and confused.

He’s being kept in a place of safety as social workers decide whether to return him to his grandmother, who came forward on Friday to identify him.

Obakeng said police were still investigating the crime, but earlier reports were that the mother had sent an SMS to the child’s father informing him that his son was dead.

Dr Sello Mokoena, the spokesman for the Gauteng Department of Social Development, had earlier said: “We’ve established the mother had a problem with the grandmother. She scolded her, she was trying to put some sense into her. It would seem that the mother then abandoned the child on the highway.

“The police are opening a case of child neglect and abandonment. It’s a very serious crime,” he said, adding that the department was looking at placing the child with his grandmother permanently.

Weekend Argus