Mpuma cops probe three baby kidnappings

Hazyview - Mpumalanga police are investigating the possibility of a baby-kidnapping syndicate working in the province following the alleged kidnapping of three babies that took place in the past week.

Provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Selvy Mohlala said the two children were kidnapped in Hazyview last Wednesday while the third baby was kidnapped at Rob Ferreira Hospital in Mbombela on Saturday.

"The one case is that there are allegations that two women were held at gunpoint and their babies taken. The other was a woman who apparently stole a baby at the hospital. We are investigating if there is a syndicate operating in the vicinity or if it was just coincidental," said Mohlala on Tuesday.

According to one of the mothers, Lindiwe Shilubane (43), from Hazyview, her 13-month-old son, Gift, was returned to her on Monday.

Shilubane told African Eye News Service that the kidnappers told her to go to A1 Fisheries to collect her baby but warned her not to call the police.

“I found him there alone; my husband and I are very happy he is safe,” she said.

Shilubane said the kidnapping took place just a few metres away from one of the two busy taxi ranks at Hazyview.

“I had gone to buy medicine for my son who was coming down with flu. I was walking down a passage towards the taxi rank at around 17:00 when two men in black leather jackets showed me their firearms. They asked me to keep quiet and led me to a black bakkie parked nearby,” said Shilubane.

She said the men abducted another woman, who had a baby aged about six months old.

She said the armed gunmen ordered her and the other woman - who has not been identified yet - into a double-cab bakkie.

She said their faces were covered with towels and they were driven to a secluded area about 40km from Hazyview, where they were drugged.

According to Shilubane, they were driven to veld where they were made to sit under a tree and forced to drink what looked like water from a bottle. The men kept the two infants in the bakkie.

The last thing she could remember was being asked questions about her son, including his name and age. Shilubane said when they awoke the next morning, the men had disappeared along with the bag holding her baby’s bottles, clothes and other items. They also took the other woman’s shoes and cellphone.

The two mothers set out in hopes of reaching the main road, but as they walked two of the men who had abducted them the previous day returned in a different vehicle.

“I immediately ran deep into the bushes,” said Shilubane. “But the other lady said, ‘I’m not running away. They must rather kill me than disappear with my baby.’ I was scared and didn’t even look back. I just heard her screaming once. Then the vehicle’s doors slammed shut and the car sped off with her.”

Hazyview police head Lieutenant Colonel Mfundisi Makamu said a case of kidnapping had been opened and investigations were under way.

The Department of Health spokesperson Dumisane Malamule said the department was busy conducting an internal investigation to determine what actually transpired on Saturday when a baby was kidnapped at Rob Ferreira Hospital.

“The report we have is that there was a woman who came to the hospital during visiting hours and presented herself to the victim as her sister in law.

“The woman then convinced the mother that the grandmother of the baby wanted to see the new born, but she was somewhere around the hospital,” said Malamule.

He said the mother allegedly agreed and handed the child to the suspect who then left with the baby.