The 11-month-old baby who was beaten to death, allegedly by his mother, was found unconscious while his mom was busy praying.
Police arrested the 42-year-old mother of three on Sunday for allegedly beating her child to death in front of her 11-year-old daughter at Ha-Lambani-Tswinganani village, outside Thohoyandou in Limpopo.
A family member, who spoke to Sowetan on condition of anonymity, said the mother had locked herself in the mud hut with her two children.
“My mother went to check up on her as usual but she was shocked when she refused to open the door and the child was crying. She then came to me and we rushed to the house and upon arrival she still refused to open but she could be heard praying,” he said.
He said he decided to force the door open.
“I found the child's face swollen but he didn't have bruises or visible injuries. I called someone with a car and carried the baby to the main road where he was subsequently taken to a nearby clinic,” he said.
The baby was declared dead on arrival at Lambani Clinic, said provincial police spokesperson Brig Motlafela Mojapelo.
“The motive for the incident is not clear at this stage but domestic violence cannot be ruled out. The woman has been arrested on a charge of murder and police investigations are continuing,” he said.
Neighbour Livhuwani Bodeli said: “I saw the family with the baby passing next to my yard and his face was swollen. I'm completely shocked because the mother loved all her three children very much and I didn't think she was capable of harming them.”
The relative said his niece who saw the incident had been severely affected by it.
“Whenever I ask her about what happened in the house, she starts crying and we hope that with time she will be able to speak out. She really needs help to process what happened,” he said.
MEC for social development Nkakareng Rakgoale said “the incident has once again placed a spotlight on the safety of children”.
“The department has immediately dispatched a team of social workers to the village for them to provide psychosocial support to the family,” she said.
Rakgoale said it was sad to learn of the shocking incident, especially when the country is commemorating Child Protection Week, which started on Sunday.
“What is worrying is that the incident happens at a time [when] we are supposed to be showing love and appreciation to the children we have,” she said.