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WATCH | Joy and tears as abducted Baragwanath baby arrives home

12 June 2019 - 14:18 By Nonkululeko Njilo

As the father of a baby snatched at birth cuddled the infant at home for the first time, it was with heartfelt relief - and the knowledge that the family will one day have to share the traumatic tale of abduction with her.

"Wow. You're finally home," Thabang Morodi said to his baby Nompumelelo, with a beaming smile. 

The newborn was abducted from Soweto's Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital last Thursday afternoon, a day after her birth. Police traced her to a home in the suburb a day later, reuniting her with her mother, Bikokuhle Hlatshwayo.

She remained in hospital for care after being born prematurely at eight months.

On Tuesday evening, she was welcomed home with dance, cheers and ululation by family members in the south of Johannesburg. Dressed in white fluffy babygro and wrapped in a pink blanket, everyone could not wait for their turn to hold the newborn.  

Morodi was almost speechless as he held his firstborn, who had been kidnapped before he could even touch or see her. And then there was the delay in discharging her, which fed into his anxieties.

"I was really upset, I was concerned, thinking that what if these people come and take my child again? What if something happens to her mother? I had so many unanswered questions, to finally see them home safe is really a relief," he said.

The child's maternal grandmother, Nomsa Hlatshwayo, shed tears and offered up a short prayer to welcome the child. She said she would now get to sleep peacefully. 

"The past few days have been extremely difficult, I could not sleep a wink, let alone eat. I am really happy but a part of me still can't believe all that has happened," she said. 

The new grandmother said she would nickname the baby Nonhlanhla, loosely translated to mean "the lucky one".

The family was haunted by thoughts that the baby could have been mutilated, lost forever, tortured or taken long enough to be scarred emotionally. 

"I have never heard of a story of a baby that was stolen immediately after birth but got to be found within hours. A lot of things could have happened to her, she could have been a sacrifice for witchcraft or anything, but she was lucky to come home unharmed. This is just a miracle," said the grandmother.

Hlatshwayo is thinking about the best way for her grandchild to be told of her kidnapping.

"I wish that we can sit down with her when she is 12 and share her amazing story, sit again with her when she's 16. I would hate it for her to hear it from other people," she said.  

As the baby's parents sat with their child, they discussed their aspirations for her. 

"Raising the child will not be easy, but we will try our best to give her the best," said Morodi, who is employed at a retail store. 

Bikokuhle Hlatshwayo, a fulltime homemaker, is dreaming of her baby becoming a lawyer, so that she can help less fortunate people fight injustices.  

The infant's dad would like her to become a doctor. "I would support any career she would choose, but personally I would like her to become a responsible doctor who would save people's lives and prevent similar incidents [kidnapping] from taking place," he said.

While the family is relieved at the safe arrival home of the baby, paternal grandmother Phindile Monareng said family members would gather to discuss the situation, as they are not satisfied with the answers provided by the hospital's managers on how their child went missing on their watch.   

Given the opportunity, the new mom said she would ask her baby's alleged abductor about her motive in taking someone else's child.   

"I really wish to see her face, to know the kind of person she is, and ask her why, what were her intentions."

Hlatshwayo said she saw the woman on the hospital's CCTV footage, and was told that the alleged abductor had left the hospital with the baby inside a paper bag.

"The fact that she put my child in a paper bag still breaks my heart. What kind of a human being or a mother would put a child in a paper bag, like some groceries or clothes?"

Baby Nompumelelo is a week old, but her mother says she can already predict the kind of person she will be. "I think she will be someone kind, with a good heart."