A father’s highly anticipated reunion with his 14-year-old daughter was further prolonged raising his trepidation.
The girl, in Grade 7 at Pholosho Junior Secondary School was reported as missing for three weeks in the article Father-daughter get reunited, Week ending 28 August.
Her father Eseuvao Namarogolo, the school and Alexandra police searched in vain until she was located at her mother’s home in Orange Farm. The mother was keeping the daughter despite her knowledge of Namarogolo’s sole custody of the child and that she had been reported missing. The police gave Namarogolo a letter to give to the mother ordering her to bring back the girl to the station at 9am on 28 August.
Despite the order and numerous calls from the station’s Victim Empowerment Unit, the mother and child arrived three hours late to Namarogolo’s exasperation.
The manager of the unit Elizabeth Mokwena said the mother failed to give convincing reasons for the delay and keeping the child who she had abandoned after three days of her birth, resulting in the father’s custodianship of their daughter.
“She [mother] tearfully alleged that the guardianship was dubious and that the child didn’t want to stay with him as he was abusive,” Mokwena said, adding that this worsened the situation for Namarogolo who had brought new clothes and stationery for his daughter in anticipation of the reunion.
Despite the tense atmosphere, the couple and child were referred to the South African National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependency for drug tests after allegations that the child might have been exposed to substance abuse. The tests came back negative. However, Namarogolo still couldn’t get custody of his daughter due to police having to establish documentary evidence of the custodianship status. The girl was left with the mother who was ordered to return with her the following day, 29 August. It left Namarogolo worried that his daughter would miss out on class with the final examinations only weeks away.
The school principal Dingaan Kubheka said they would not violate the education policy on exclusion from school if the child did not return within a stipulated time. “Attendance statistics and reasons advanced for the absence will determine the decision,” he said. “While sympathising with the father, we urge both parents to act in the interest of the child’s education as her only future security against unemployment and poverty,” Kubheka said.
Mokwena urged all parents, guardians and carers to be familiar with children’s rights to avoid prosecution. “Ignorance will be no defence. You should consult when in doubt about children’s welfare and rights.”
Details: Victim Empowerment Unit 011 321 7600.