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The family of a 9-month-old baby suspected to have been taken by her father heaved a sigh of relief after the infant was found in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, at the weekend.

Columbus Chikowore went missing with his daughter, Bella Matsikite, after the child’s mother, Vongai Linia Matsikite, allegedly consumed poison.

Matsikite’s mother, Tsitsi Runganga, told The Star that the family suspected that Chikowore poisoned Matsikite before he fled with the baby.

Runganga said her daughter had been in a relationship with Chikowore since 2017 and that the relationship between the two turned violent after her daughter found out that Chikowore was married.

Runganga said her daughter tried to get away from Chikowore and found a room in a flat in Sunnyside, Pretoria, this month.

While she was moving into the flat, Matsikite asked Chikowore’s mother to look after the baby overnight.

“When she went to fetch the baby, the mother-in-law wouldn't give her the baby because she said she did not have a proper place to stay,” she said.

Chikowore and his mother allegedly refused to return the baby so Matsikite went to the Sunnyside police station to ask for assistance on December 3.

“At around midday, the father of the baby sent an audio to me while I was in Zimbabwe, saying ‘Mama, your daughter ate poison at my doorstep’,” she said.

Runganga said she believed that her daughter may have forcibly entered Chikowore’s flat to get Bella.

Matsikite was rushed to Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria and was put on life support, but was declared brain dead. On December 12, Matsikite was taken off life support and died.

While Matsikite was in hospital, the family did not know where Chikowore or Bella were until Chikowore’s mother told a social worker she gave Bella to her son.

On Sunday, Middelburg police found the baby in the care of Chikowore’s uncle. Runganga said she was surprised that her grandchild was with Chikowore’s uncle because he had told them numerous times while they were looking for the child that she was with her father.

Gauteng provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters confirmed that the baby was found.

She added that an inquest docket was opened in the death of Matsikite.

“The police are yet to locate the missing boyfriend for questioning,” she said.

The Star