Durban - DNA tests are underway to confirm if a Verulam woman is the biological mother of a newborn baby who was left for dead - wrapped in newspaper and placed in a plastic bag - in Everest Heights on Monday afternoon.
The 2.3kg baby boy was rescued in the nick of time by a beggar who heard its muffled cries while he was foraging for food in the bins on Olivine Road.
He alerted a passer-by who called in Reaction Unit South Africa (Rusa). As they were attending to the distressed infant, the garbage truck arrived, on its weekly rounds to collect the garbage.
Police spokesperson Lt Colonel Thulani Zwane said : “A case of child abandonment was opened at Verulam police station. It is suspected that she is the mother of the child but we will conduct a DNA test to verify whether she is.”
Rusa spokesman Prem Balram said the baby was less than a few hours old with the umbilical cord still intact. The baby was stabilised by paramedics and taken to a local hospital for treatment.
Balram said they conducted investigations in the area and closed in on the woman a short while later.
“She initially denied allegations of being pregnant or of attempting to kill her child. After extensive questioning she finally admitted that she concealed her pregnancy for nine months because of this child being from a different father. She has two other children.”
Balram said the woman claimed to have gone into labour that morning.
“She told me she managed to naturally deliver the baby in her bathroom while her children, aged 11 and 9, were at school and her parents were at work.”
After the birth, she wrapped the baby in newspaper and rags, put him in a plastic bag and dumped him with the garbage at the side of the road.
“She then cleaned the bathroom to conceal the birth. Her parents were called to the scene and claimed they had no knowledge that she could have been pregnant,” Balram claimed.
However, the family of the woman have hit out at Balram after he released images of her arrest and of the abandoned baby.
When POST arrived at the woman’s home, her family were sitting silently in the lounge. Her mother said they did not know if she was pregnant.
“At this stage, everything is unclear. We don’t know the facts. But Reaction Unit just posted things and everyone is believing it. I don’t think it’s right and who even pinpointed that it was my daughter, no one even knows. We are all just worried about her.”
The mother said claims that the children were from different fathers were also false.
“We are so embarrassed. We have been renting here for over 20 years and now with all these posts the neighbours must be thinking very badly about us and my daughter. They (Reaction Unit) did not even think of her children. They have friends in school - how will they feel to see and hear all this?”
Neighbours described the woman as “quiet” and said they “would not have expected it from her”.
Another neighbour claimed the woman had been suffering from depression.
Social media expert Emma Sadlier described Reaction Unit’s posts as “vigilantism”.
“Generally where children are involved and can be identified and affected, it is not wise to release pictures or names. If the story isn’t as it seems then the mother could have a huge defamation case.
“I can’t imagine that it is in the best interest of the children for the mother to be named and shamed, especially if there isn’t evidence like a picture or video footage available. It’s very dangerous and those who are sharing the posts need to understand they are republishing the original post and they are just as responsible as the original publisher.”
Psychologist Dr Guru Kistnasamy said for a mother to do something like this to her own baby meant she could be in a desperate place.
“We don’t understand what may be looming in their minds and they would need help. Last week a mother murdered her four children, this week it’s this.”
He said the mother needed support through family, a psychologist or SADAG (the South African Depression and Anxiety Group).
“If a woman did not notify people of her pregnancy then there could also be a deeper issue at play, like she does not know who the father could be, or she could have been the unfortunate victim of a crime like rape or incest, so that’s why I say people need to spot the signs and try and get help for their loved ones before it’s too late,” he said.