Locked in a shack during a heatwave, one tied to a bed – this is how police found two children this week.
Aged two and five, the children were found in an informal settlement in Sir Lowry’s Pass Village at noon on Wednesday, as temperatures nudged the high 30s.
With no insulation beneath the tin roof sheets, the shack was a cookhouse.
The children, who already lived in desperate poverty, including no access to proper ablutions and fresh water – conditions thousands of children around Cape Town suffer daily – were faced with another ordeal after their mother allegedly locked them in a tiny room, tied her five-year-old boy’s leg to a bed post, and left home.
In their bedroom there was no sign of them having had access to water.
Police said neighbours were alerted by the children’s screams for help at about noon.
They called police, who freed the children.
The 28-year-old mother was later arrested and is due to appear in the Somerset West Magistrate’s Court on Friday on charges of child abuse, police spokesman Frederick van Wyk said.
The informal settlement, known as the Rasta Camp, comprises several hundred shacks linked by narrow, winding dirt alleys.
The children’s room is 1.5m wide and 3m long, with a double bunk strewn with filthy blankets and clothes.
Neighbours said they were shocked by news of the children’s ordeal.
“I would not even tie up my dog inside, especially not in heat like this,” said one neighbour, who did not want to be named.
Another neighbour said Sir Lowry’s Pass Village’s notorious vehicle thoroughfare – the road which runs up to the N2 at the Firgrove intersection – might have been the reason the mother locked her children indoors.
Another said it might have been the social environment, including shebeens, open drug abuse and a recent history of crimes against children in the village.
Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille’s office said a child’s care was the responsibility of a parent or parents.
“There’s no justification for leaving two kids alone like that, and then still tie them to a bed. It’s inhuman. How did she expect them to get water, especially in a heatwave?” she asked.
“But what this does point to is the responsibility of the father. Where is the father? He must also be arrested and held responsible. This needs to send out a very strong message that both parents must care for children.”
The mother’s explanation will only be heard in court, possibly on Friday or at a later trial.
The father’s whereabouts could not be established.
For the past two nights the mother has been behind bars at the Somerset West police station. Residents said they had heard the children were being taken care of there, but police could not confirm this at the time of going to print.
In May 2010 police arrested an uMbumbulu couple in KwaZulu-Natal for allegedly tying up their six-year-old daughter. Neighbours said this situation had been going on for three years.
The girl was rescued by a police
man who was patrolling the area. He had been stopped by a resident who informed him about the child.
“When police went to the house they realised there was a little girl inside and they broke down the door and found her tied in a corner,” said police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker.
He said the girl was silent after officers rescued her and showed little emotion.
The girl’s parents, who are in their 20s, were tracked down and arrested.
The girl taken into protective custody by social welfare.