This three-year-old girl and her mother have been ordered to return to Belgium.
This three-year-old girl and her mother have been ordered to return to Belgium.

Mother’s bid to keep child in SA fails

By FATIMA SCHROEDER Time of article published Oct 13, 2012

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Cape Town - “With heavy heart and fond memories”, the mother who fled Belgium with her two-year-old daughter nearly three years ago, will have to return to that country on Saturday – after the Constitutional Court on Friday dismissed her bid to keep the child in SA.

The woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of her child, could not be reached for comment yesterday. But she said on her Facebook page that she and her daughter faced an uncertain future.

But she added that she was confident the truth “will eventually be heard”, and that things would improve.

“I also hope that our situation and the way it is still to be resolved will be a light shining for families who agonise with situations like this, and hope decisions made for us will help them overcome,” she said.

The mother claims she fled Belgium in November 2009 because she believed it was not in her daughter’s best interests to have contact with the father, a Belgian citizen, who was “neglectful” and “intimidating”.

Her flight prompted a massive hunt for the child, involving international police, private investigators, and Belgian and SA authorities.

Eventually, two years later, the pair were traced to a Garden Route town, by which time the child was five years old.

 

By her fifth birthday, the child’s mother was embroiled in a battle in the Western Cape High Court after the child’s father and the Ad Hoc Central Authority for SA lodged an application arguing that, in terms of the Hague Convention, the removal of the child was unlawful.

And last month Judge Siraj Desai agreed.

His decision meant that the child should return to the country of her birth so that authorities there could properly determine her future custody.

But, determined to stay in SA, the mother took the case to the Supreme Court of Appeal on an urgent basis and, on October 3, that court ruled against her.

In a last bid to prevent having to return the child to Belgium, she filed an application in the Constitutional Court on Wednesday, in which she asked that the execution of the order be stayed pending an application for leave to appeal the decision.

“At the time, rightly or wrongly, I felt I had no choice but to flee to South Africa to the safety of my parents’ home, and perhaps to a legal system that would regard the best interests of my child as paramount,” she said in an affidavit before the Constitutional Court.

However, the court yesterday dismissed the application, finding that there was no prospect of success.

A legal representative for the mother told Weekend Argus yesterday that both mother and child were to return to Belgium today.

However, measures had been put in place to ensure they were provided with a flat to live in in that country. She would also receive maintenance while in Belgium.

In addition, the mother would be allowed to apply to a Belgiam court to relocate to SA. Authorities have also undertaken not to arrest her when she arrives there; she was convicted, in her absence, of abduction.

Weekend Argus

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