Daniel* was just three when paramedics were summoned to the home in June 2016. His tiny body was burnt with boiling water. Now both Cloete and her boyfriend, Timothy Naidoo*, have been charged with his murder, with the State alleging the couple had abused the child throughout his life.
This week at the high court in Joburg, Cloete took the stand where she was subject to cross-examination that questioned her bizarre behaviour on the night of Daniel’s death and in the following weeks.
Both have denied that Daniel had been abused, despite a post-mortem report indicating the child had been burnt in the past and had experienced numerous facial bruises and broken bones on his multiple-hospital visits.
This week, Cloete insisted Naidoo had been a model boyfriend and father until the night before Daniel’s death.
Naidoo claims that he had been preparing to bath Daniel the night before the child’s death, and was distracted and unable to prevent him from falling into the hot water. However, neither had taken Daniel to hospital, with Cloete just asking the child if he was okay, and letting him go to sleep.
By the next morning, the child had died.
Cloete has claimed that after the alleged bathing accident, Naidoo had said: “I f****d him up for good this time.”
She had then examined Daniel and after spotting a burn on his face asked the child if he was “okay”. The child answered in the affirmative and she put him to bed.
It was Naidoo’s lawyer, Mpho Nemaunzeni, who pointed out that if the couple had never abused the child, as she claimed, he would not have used the words “this time”.
Cloete was unable to answer this contradiction, and disagreed with the lawyer's claims that his client had never said he had “f****d up” the child.
According to Cloete, about a week after Daniel’s death she met her family and realised that Naidoo may have been responsible for Daniel’s death.
She moved in with her sister and gave a statement saying as much to the police, but then discovered she was pregnant with Naidoo’s child.
She called him to tell him and they were set to meet that same week. Cloete claimed that it was during this meeting that Naidoo threatened her children’s lives if he tried to leave her.
But she was unable to give the court any indication of what the threat was, prompting Nemaunzeni to accuse her of lying.
She was also unable to explain why she moved back in with Naidoo for the next eight months, saying only that she “had reasons”, or why she failed to disclose these threats to the investigating officer.
It was only in her bail application, eight months after her son's death, that she claimed Naidoo had been physically abusing her and making threats against the children.
The mom claimed she had been too afraid to report the threats, even during the court cases that resulted in the biological father seizing custody of the children.
The trial continues.
* Not their real names