Durban - An 11-year-old Phoenix girl, a deaf mute, is being hailed as a heroine for alerting neighbours through sign language that her grandmother had been brutally attacked, allegedly by her mother.
Left at home while her mother went to work at a call centre, she tried frantically to indicate that her granny had been badly injured and was lying on the floor, unable to move.
The 61-year-old pensioner, who had allegedly been left that way from the early hours of that morning, had suffered a dislocated knee and her pelvic bone had been broken, according to paramedics.
She had apparently been assaulted with a mop handle and is recovering at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital.
“The girl signed to us that her granny had been hit and told us where she had been hit. We called 10111 immediately,” said a neighbour who did not want to be named.
She said she knew something had been terribly wrong because of the commotion her family had heard the night before.
“There was a lot of screaming and shouting and we could actually hear the sound of the granny being hit. It was more than the usual screams.”
The attacker, who is alleged to be the girl’s mother, has not been arrested because the complainant has not opened a case with police, who attended the scene on Tuesday last week.
According to a police spokesman, based on information from the complainant’s medical report, a case can still be opened by the State or a social worker.
The neighbour said she had also contacted a security company and the owner of the house where the family had been staying.
Vincent Naiker, whose family owns the double-storey house, said that he had accompanied authorities as they inspected the building.
“When we went upstairs, the granny had pillows around her for comfort; she was unable to even move so paramedics were brought in.”
He said he was shocked and immensely sad by the condition of the woman.
“We tried to help her up but she was not mobile at all. She was in unbearable pain.”
When a POST team went to the house on Monday, the girl was locked in, alone, as her mother was at work.
The dimpled 11-year-old, who was wearing matching pink jewellery, had written several notes to her neighbour, one saying: “It is such a nice day to be outside.”
Neighbours were concerned about her safety in an emergency.
“If there is a fire in the house, she would not be able to hear it and could be trapped inside,” said one.
Another said she was very aggrieved by the situation.
“I have visited the granny in hospital and she is yet to recover from her last ordeal,” she said, insinuating there had been a previous incident.
She said the girl was close to her granny and had told her family she was missing her.
“Her granny brought her up. Her mother leaves them locked in the house and goes to work so they only have each other.”
The neighbour said the child did not attend school. She just stood by a window, whether it was sunny or raining.
“If it is hot, she will put on a hat and burn in the sun but she won’t move from the window till her mother is home after 6pm.”
A social worker who had seen the girl last week said she had indicated to the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Social Development, which was now dealing with the matter, that the child would need to be removed from her mother’s care.
Department spokesman Vukani Mbhele said that in terms of the Children’s Act, the girl would only be removed from the care of her mother if it was found that she was being neglected.
“The child will be put in a safe place where we have the facilities to take care of special needs children,” he said on Tuesday.
Mbhele said the department would carry out a full investigation.
The mother could not be reached for comment.