Confusion over shack baby

15 May 2019 | Social Issues

The mother of a three-month-old baby girl who the City Police confirmed had died at the end of April after she and her three young siblings were rescued from a shack in which they were locked up alone says her child is alive and well.

Anna de Koker (40), who was briefly arrested on 26 April after the police had broken into her shack after concerned neighbours had reported a possible case of child neglect, says the untrue reports of her daughter's death hurt her deeply.

“I am the mother of these children. I would never toss my children away because their fathers can't support them. I am very proud of my kids and I will raise them until I go to my grave.”

The other children found alongside the baby, whose name is Liana, were a boy (5), a girl (4) and another girl just over one year old.

“I am very hurt. The entire country thinks I am a terrible mother. They say my baby is dead. They say I am a mother who can't look after her children.”

Yet she admitted that without a job and support from the fathers, she is struggling to feed and clothe her children.





“As a mother alone I struggle. I am poor. I have nothing. Not even a pot in which to cook food,” adding, “there is nothing in my house. Not even maize meal. There is only one 25-litre water can that is half-empty.”



Bungled

Namibian Sun's reports were based on multiple confirmations from City Police officers that the three-month-old baby died shortly after she and her siblings had been admitted to hospital. Namibian Sun was informed by the police and others on the scene of the “appalling conditions” in which the children were found, which necessitated an urgent trip to the hospital. Yesterday, City Police officials confirmed they were recently informed the baby was alive and that it had been a case of mistaken identity. Senior Superintendent Nathaniel Nendongo said an overview of the matter indicated a “communication error” had been committed and the faulty information was released to the media.

The mistake resulted from a general report of neglect cases from that weekend, he said, in which a child had reportedly died but the media were incorrectly informed of its identity and to which case the death was connected.



Very hard

De Koker yesterday claimed the police and social workers last spoke to her when she and her children were still under hospital supervision. She said she had agreed to talk to her father, who lives near Mariental, to take the children to him to help care for them.

She claims only her young toddler had shown signs of illness - a throat infection - and that was why they remained in the hospital for a week. Doctors and paramedics at the scene of the rescue stated that all the children had shown signs of neglect, especially malnutrition and dehydration, when they were found and had been kept at the hospital to be treated. Further, the youngest child was naked and only covered by a thin sheet.



Tough job

De Koker told Namibian Sun yesterday she had a job but when she was on maternity leave she was not paid and then the company closed. She denied reports that she had been drinking when the police arrived that night. City Police confirmed she tested 0.80 on a breathalyser. She says she left the children in the care of her 21-year-old daughter and a friend, and had gone to ask a relative for maize meal to feed the children. She says the children were briefly left alone, but were asleep, and when she arrived back the police were there and arrested her. Her arrest was later withdrawn. Namibian Sun was unable to establish whether a case of neglect is still being investigated.

JANA-MARI SMITH