When two-month-old Kwahlelwa Tiwane was reportedly snatched from her mother, Asanda Tiwane, on 16 January in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, the police issued a statement asking for help to urgently find him.
In a time of deep fear over the safety of women and children, a breakthrough was made quickly and an 18-year-old Claremont High School pupil from Gugulethu was arrested on a charge of kidnapping.
The pupil, Karabo Tau, however, maintained she was innocent, saying she had an alibi, adding she was at school at the time of the incident.
A second suspect, 22-year-old Ely Kibunda a foreign national from Parow who has lived in South Africa since he was 6 years old, was arrested a few days later.
However, the case is shrouded in contradictions and mystery, and by February 7, the police said the investigation was continuing.
There is no news on the location of Kwahlelwa who has a twin brother and another two-year-old sibling.
What the police said when they asked for help in finding Kwahlelwa:
A person purporting to be a social worker visited the baby’s mother at home in Khayelitsha on 15 January and gained her trust. She asked for copies of the babies’ birth certificates and clinic cards and made copies.
The woman returned on January 16 and accompanied the mom and babies on a taxi from Khayelitsha to Parow, where her office was supposedly based. There were apparently offers to help the mother with a social grant and food parcel.
The police said once the vehicle stopped at the supposed office, the woman got out with Kwahlelwa and fled.
A picture of Kwahlelwa wearing a yellow, grey and red top, and maroon tracksuit pants was issued to help find him.
The bail applications:
Tau and Kibunda, who were arrested a few days apart, are still in custody. They are being held separately and have their own lawyers.
During the bail application the court heard that:
– The twins’ birth was not registered because their mother has a problem with her ID. Her partner is Siyanda Thugane.
– Tiwane testified she had not checked the credentials of the woman who claimed she was a social worker. She said she had seen Karabo allegedly going to other houses in the area.
– Investigating officer Solomzi Ngunda testified Karabo was identified through a profile picture from a saved phone number of the person who had visited the twins’ mother. The police eventually tracked her down and arrested her.
– Karabo swears she is innocent. She testified she was in an isiXhosa class at Claremont High School at around 14:00 – the time the twins’ mother places Karabo in Khayelitsha on 16 January. It was the second day of the new academic year.
– Her isiXhosa teacher, Thoko Godana, was called to the stand to corroborate a letter from the school stating Karabo was at school at 14:00. She said she was “100% sure” she was sitting in the front row of the classroom.
– Claremont High School’s IT manager, Johan Thompson, testified the school had 60 CCTV cameras and she was seen on camera 13 at 15:26:57 on January 16. Thompson said it was impossible to change the date stamp for something that had already been recorded.
‘Never enough time’, alleged ‘forced confession’
– Karabo took the stand on Thursday and testified she was at school in an isiXhosa class at the time she was supposed to have been involved in the kidnapping. She said the clip showed her coming from the bathroom and entering a corridor, where she and a friend had looked at the features of a new iPhone.
– She testified that after school she usually walked to the taxi rank, adding she normally got home at around 16:30 if she does not have extramural activities. She had some noodles to eat on the day, and her family arrived soon afterward.
– Karabo’s lawyer, Sulaiman Chotia, insisted Karabo would never have had enough time to sneak from school to Khayelitsha, then to Parow, and then back to school in the time frames provided, given the distance, waiting for taxis, and traveling time involved.
– Karabo shocked the court by alleging she was forced by the police to say she took Kwahlelwa and was promised no jail time if she would say she took the baby.
– “At the time I was very scared,” she told the court.
– She dreams of becoming a lawyer or a journalist and all she could think of was their alleged threat that she would never be able to follow her dreams.
– Karabo said they told her some foreign nationals were kidnapping babies, and if she just told the truth she could go home.
– She said she let the police take the numbers of two foreign nationals listed in her phone directory because she was “freaking out” and did not have a lawyer with her.
– The court heard one of Karabo’s sisters had died last year.
– She testified she had a boyfriend and denied telling the police her co-accused, Kibunda, is also her boyfriend as claimed by the State. She said she met him through Facebook and the last time she saw him was in November at a mall in Gugulethu. He and the other foreign national’s name she had handed over had a crush on her, she added.
– The prosecutor wanted to know why Karabo had not cried during the traumatizing experience of being in jail and court. She said she was overwhelmed and cried privately. However, she did not think crying would make anybody believe she is innocent.
– There are two camps attending court – one to support Karabo and the other demanding to know where the baby is. They came to blows with empty plastic cold drink bottles at past court appearances.