Boy’s family seeks special school after his ears were mauled by pit bulls

Zanele and her disabled son Siphelo Cramford, who was mauled by two pit bulls and lost his ears. Picture: LEON LESTRADE/ African New Agency (ANA)

Zanele and her disabled son Siphelo Cramford, who was mauled by two pit bulls and lost his ears. Picture: LEON LESTRADE/ African New Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 5, 2023


A mom whose disabled son was left disfigured after he mauled by pit bulls, is looking for assistance in getting him into a school that’ll meet his medical needs.

Life has not been easy for the Cramford family living in Philippi East where 38-year-old Zanele has spent years caring for her 8-year-old whose young life has been centred around hospital visits.

On his second birth, Siphelo suffered a seizure that left him blind, deaf, mute and unable to walk.

And four years later when he managed to beat the odds by learning to walk and could see and hear in one ear, he was attacked by two pit bulls in 2021, an attack that left him without ears.

Siphelo has developed a pica disorder where he eats his clothes.

Zanele Cramford is desperately looking for help so her disabled son can go to school Picture: LEON LESTRADE/African New Agency (ANA)

Zanele said their troubles began when Siphelo started having epileptic fits as a baby.

“His second birthday was the day that changed for me. He was admitted to hospital in Gqeberha and I tried to speak to him but noticed there was something wrong.

“He couldn’t see me and when I lifted his arm he didn’t respond. The doctors told me he will never be able to talk, walk, hear or speak again.”

She told the Weekend Argus she decided to bring her child to Cape Town to seek further medical help.

“I was advised to go to Red Cross Hospital and that is where I got help. He saw a physiotherapist and it was a miracle that he was able to walk and regained his sight and the ability to walk but he can’t hear properly.”

Disabled Siphelo Cramford and his mom Zanele have been struggling for two years since the pit bull attack. Picture: LEON LESTRADE/African New Agency (ANA)

An emotional Zanele recounted a second ordeal that once again changed her son’s life when he was 6-years-old.

“I left him with my neighbours who owned two pit bulls and went to Watergate Mall to get his disposable nappies.”

She explained that she returned from the shops and found a group of children gathered around the house where she left her son.

“I thought they were teasing my son like they always do.

“They shouted that Siphelo was being attacked by the dogs, I ran into the yard and fought the dogs off my child, each one had sunk teeth into my son’s ears and head.”

The Philippi East mom said by the time she pulled the dogs off her son, piece of skin were hanging on the sides of his face.

“None of the owners came outside to speak to me and I don’t know if they were at home.

“All I could recall was walking into the yard and seeing (my) son’s orange shorts and the two big dogs on top of Siphelo.”

Zanele rushed her son to Lentegeur District Hospital and they were referred to Red Cross War Memorial Hospital.

“I was informed that 98% of his ears were bitten off. We were in the hospital for five months, and we came home.”

She said the dog owner has never compensated her son.

“The owner of the dogs came to me once with a litre of Ultramel custard and she never came back to see how my child was doing and if he needed anything.

“She removed her dogs from her premises and that was the end of it. I didn’t know whether I needed to take legal action or not, I think I was trying to be neighbourly.”

Over the last few months there have been increased debates on whether South African needs to impose the ban or implement by-laws to regulate pit bulls in the country. A move Zanele said might help save children going forward.

Now the single mom said she is desperately looking for a school to accommodate her son, who has never seen the inside of a classroom, so that she can get a job and support all five of her children.

“I have no job, I can barely survive with the R1 990 grant because there is so much that he needs. I really need him to go to a boarding school so I can stand on my own two feet for all my children,” she added.

Zanele’s aunt Macy Gaya said the past few years have been difficult for the family.

“She is very strong and her son is resilient. I believe she needs help, at times she will carry her son to my house at night when he gets sick.

“They have been through so much and we can only help with what we have even though we don’t have a lot too.”

Western Cape Education Department’s spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said Zanele should contact the Metro South district office and request assistance for placement of her child as there are 76 specials schools in the province.

Weekend Argus