Pretoria - “Can I ever live a normal life if I am identified by the media.”
This question was posed by the teenager whom the country had come to know as Zephany Nurse, after it was revealed that she was allegedly stolen shortly after birth.
The 17-year-old, in an affidavit to the high court in Pretoria, pleaded with the judge to bar the media from revealing her identity once she had turned 18.
“My private, personal history belongs to me. I want to decide whether I share it with others and when,” she said in a an affidavit handed to court on Tuesday.
This document formed part of an application by the Centre of Child Law, which had taken on the plight of the teenager.
The court issued an urgent order barring the media from identifying Zephany in any manner – both now and when she turned 18 at the end of April.
The order will remain in place pending the outcome of a further application by the centre in which it wants the court to deal with the correct interpretation of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) which protects child witnesses and offenders.
This application is expected to be heard before the end of this year.
According to the head of the centre, Professor Ann Skelton, the CPA protects the identity of child victims and offenders, even after they had turned 18. At present no victims under the age of 18 are identified, but there is some uncertainty among some people as to whether this is still the case after they have turned 18.
Skelton said she had asked for an undertaking from the media that they will not reveal Zephany’s real identity after she turned 18. While it was clear that she could not be identified at this stage, various media houses said they would revisit the issue once she had turned 18.
Skelton said while the media will not suffer any harm if they refer to her as Zephany, she, on the other hand, will suffer irreparable harm if she is identified.
According to her the teenager’s life turned into a nightmare after it was revealed that she was allegedly stolen at birth.
“These events are traumatic in and of themselves. That they are taking place in the glare of intense media interest, with the constant threat of identification, severely compounds this trauma,” she said.
Zephany meanwhile said in her statement that the media are “like flying pests that do not want to go away.”
She said she is struggling to come to terms with her situation and the media, who are haunting her, are making things even more difficult.
She feared that pictures will be taken of her and published once she is 18.
According to Zephany she just wants to get to know her biological parents and try to come to terms with her situation.