Baby Tshepang thrives

08 August 2013 - 03:24 By NASHIRA DAVIDS
Red Cross Hospital theatre porter Abdul Wagied Swartz entertains Baby Tshepang 11 years ago
Red Cross Hospital theatre porter Abdul Wagied Swartz entertains Baby Tshepang 11 years ago
Image: AMBROSE PETERS

Some day a 12-year-old girl from the Northern Cape might discover that the scar on her stomach is not there because she had an ordinary operation, as her adoptive parents have told her.

She could learn that she is Baby Tshepang. The child from Upington was brutally raped in 2001 at the age of nine months by her teenage mother's ex-boyfriend.

Her story sent the world into shock, and nations cried for her. Updates of her condition at the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, where she underwent reconstructive surgery and treatment, made headline news.

Today Baby Tshepang - which means hope - is a beautiful, healthy and loving child. A star at school.

At the age of one, after she left the hospital, she was adopted.

Her adoptive parents are dreading the day she finds out who she really is. She does know that they are not her biological parents as she has had contact with her mother.

"When the question comes from her side, we don't want to lie about it. We will find a way," her adoptive father said.

"She did ask about the scar but we are just saying it is where she had a stomach operation. That is a lie but for now we want to keep it away from her."

He said they were eternally grateful to the doctors at Red Cross who saved her life. She is perfectly normal and has no pain.

At the trial of her rapist, David Potse, in 2002, it emerged that her then 36-year-old gran sent her 17-year-old mother to the shop.

But Baby Tshepang's mother went to the tavern instead and drank three beers.

After drinking half a bottle of "sweet wine" that night, the grandmother went looking for the teenager. When the grandmother returned home she slept.

When she went looking for the baby, she found her without her nappy, and her legs stretched up above her. She had been raped and sodomised.

Potse was sentenced to life in prison.

"If I had the power to impose the death sentence, I would," said Judge Hennie Lacock.

Almost 12 years later, the child is an ace netball player, "brilliant" academically and participates in drum majorettes at school.

"We are so proud of her," her father said.

JUSTICE SERVED

  • October 2001: Baby Tshepang was found raped and sodomised at her home in the Upington township of Louisvaleweg in Northern Cape. Six men, including her mother's ex-boyfriend David Potse, were arrested.
  • January 2002: Charges were dropped against five of the six men. Only Potse's DNA was found on the baby.
  • July 2002: After operations at Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital in Cape Town, she was discharged. Potsewas found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for rape and 18 months for indecent assault.
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