Pretoria - MEC for Community Safety Sizakhele Nkosi-Malobane on Tuesday apologised to the family of the autistic girl whose body was found in the Moretele River on Sunday.
“We are sorry for the family for what they had to experience, and that they had to lose their loved one,” said Nkosi-Malobane, who fought to hold back tears during her visit to the home of the Mamelodi girl.
The family of Katlego “Katli” Joja, 10, used the opportunity to pour out their emotions about their loss.
She told them her intervention came after a request from the ward councillor, who was unhappy with the way police had handled the case after the child went missing.
“When we go to a police station to report a child missing certain protocols need to be immediately followed for example, you don’t have to wait for 30 minutes to look for that child.
“At least somebody needed to have been dispatched together with the dog unit to come and assist the family to look for the child,” Nkosi-Malobane said.
The family was sent from pillar to post and had to wait for 24 hours, "which I think was wrong", she said. She assured the family that her department and police authorities were looking into the bad manner in which police had treated the case.
Police who were working on the shift when the matter was reported would face disciplinary action.
She also thanked community members who took part in mission to search for Katli.
“I would also like to thank the community because once the police could not respond immediately the community responded. They usually gave the family a lot of support in looking for the child,” she said.
According to Nkosi-Malobane , a preliminary report of the autopsy was available, but she was not in a position to divulge its content.
Katli’s uncle, Thabiso Storom, said his family were able to find solace in their interaction with the MEC.
“We are comfortable that the case is receiving a high level of attention, not only from the high office point of view, but from everybody who got involved.
“The investigation is still under way and we are comfortable that the right level of scrutiny is being applied to what they do and how they are doing it,” he said.
Regarding the preliminary autopsy report, Storom said: “At the moment we would rather wait to see what the outcome of the complete investigation is.
“We will then take it forward if we are still not happy. But right now we would like to focus on burying our little angel and I think that is the energy that we would like to put on Katli and let the police worried about what happened, piecing the puzzles together.”
He said Nkosi-Malobane told them that enough resources had been made available for the case.
“The plea from the family was that it is unfortunate that it has had to come to this level; that the case gets to be looked at after death and by the highest office.
“The public needs to learn from Katlego’s case and apply it so that other families don't find themselves in the position that we are sitting in.
“Our plea is that we just want to cry for the rest of the children in South Africa and parents who don't have the type of resources we had,” Storom said.
Katlego was reported missing last Thursday. A search for her yielded no positive results.
Oupa Mtsweni, leader of the Mamelodi Concerned Residents for Service Delivery organisation, was acknowledged for his active role in mobilising the community in the search for Katlego.
He said he worked together with the family to print pamphlets which were circulated around the township. An inquest docket was opened and police investigations are still under way.
A memorial service will be held in honour of Katli at the family household and she will be laid to rest on Friday at the local cemetery at 9am.
The #NotInMyName movement is scheduled to march to Mamelodi West police station to hand over a memorandum demanding that the inquest be dealt with speedily.