SA babies dumped like trash, dead or alive … ‘and it’s getting worse’

SA babies dumped like trash, dead or alive … ‘and it’s getting worse’

A red jacket is seen propped up over a colourful blanket covering the body of a newborn baby that was discovered among the trash at the Hatherley Municipal Dumping Site, 8 May 2018 in Mamelodi, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Research done at baby homes led to an estimate of 3,000 babies ‘safely abandoned’ in 2016, but the number of babies just dumped may never be known.

Newborn children are being dumped in bins, wrapped in plastic and thrown in the veld, into trash to be delivered to rubbish dumps and disposed of in myriad ways, in their thousands.

The term for these are “unsafe abandonments” and one in two are estimated to survive, while “safe abandonments” of course have a higher success rate.

“I started researching this in 2010 and I would say the numbers have been quite consistent since then, when there was a big jump,” said Dee Blackie of the department of anthropology at Wits, speaking of safe abandonments.

“In 2010 we estimated 2,500 just from child welfare offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban and their regional offices had been abandoned.”

The number of children unsafely abandoned could be as high, with only those discovered occasionally making it into the media.

A quick search on Google revealed 26 reports of abandoned babies for 2018 countrywide.

The number of unreported incidents may never be known.

“When researched with the baby homes in 2016, we estimated the number to be just under 3,000. We looked at how many baby homes there are and private NGOs, but not at the public. We felt this would be much higher,” Blackie noted.

“In Gauteng, for every child we find alive, two die.”

The 2016 Demographic and Health Survey by the department of health (DoH) found 16% of women aged 15-19 in South Africa have begun bearing children: 12% have given birth, and another 3% were pregnant with their first child at the time of the interview.

“As expected, the proportion of women aged 15-19 who have begun childbearing rises rapidly with age, from 4% among women aged 15 to 28% among women at age 19,” the report stated.

There’s a lot on family planning and who’s doing what to whom and how often. However, nowhere does the DoH ask how babies land up dead, wrapped in plastic, in a skip outside a shopping mall.

In Blackie’s dissertation “Sad, Bad, and Mad: Exploring child abandonment in South Africa”, she wrote after having “interviewed mothers who abandoned [safely and unsafely], that there was no clear motivation as to why they chose one alternative over another”.

“Both mothers stated that they loved their children and both viewed themselves as victims of fate. However, the mother who abandons safely is possibly able to see beyond her own predicament to that of her child.”

Stats SA’s 2018 Crime Against Women report found “using the 2016/17 South African Police Service statistics, in which 80% of the reported sexual offences were rape, together with Statistics South Africa’s estimate that 68.5% of sexual offences victims were women, we obtain a crude estimate of the number of women raped per 100,000 as 138. This figure is among the highest in the world.”

Tahyya Hassim of New BeginningZ – an NGO focused on vulnerable children – said there was a need for education for desperate mothers-to-be.

“It’s a better option for mother and baby if they approach any organisation working with abandoned babies, and ask for options and counselling so someone can guide them,” Hassim said.

“A lot of birth mothers complain terribly about the service they receive at clinics and hospitals when they ask for options and, unfortunately, the reality is social workers don’t want to make the option of adoption available to them, and ridicule the woman.”

And the problem is growing worse.

“Terrified, destitute and desperate, many women saw abandonment as their only option, especially after having visited a backstreet abortionist who would tell them the pills they were given would ‘dissolve’ the baby,” Blackie noted.

“Of course, all that happens is they give birth to a live child that usually dies. Research in 2017 showed anonymous abandonments had increased and many social workers were saying survivors were premature, or had significant challenges related to being prematurely born.”

  • Help can be found at:
    New BeginningZ
    558 Bengal Street, Laudium,
    Tel: 012 384 2189
  • or
    Door of Hope baby boxes
    48 Hillbrow Street, Berea, Johannesburg.
    17 Doris Street, Berea, Johannesburg.

INFO: A list of abandoned babies found so far this year. 

  • 1 January – 10-week girl found dead on Muizenberg beach, Cape Town.
  • 7 January – 21-year-old woman from Dinokana, North West, arrested for attempted murder of her newborn boy.
  • 8 March – Newborn boy found alive in a dustbin in Roshnee, Vereeniging.
  • 17 April – Newborn boy found dead at dump in Phalaborwa (not the first time).
  • 17 April – Newborn girl found alive in the veld along Columbine Road, Mondeor.
  • 26 April – Newborn found dead in plastic bag, Bloemfontein.
  • 3 May – Newborn found dead in dustbin, Durban.
  • 16 May – Newborn boy found dead at dump in Phalaborwa.
  • 22 May – Newborn found dead in a municipal trash bin in a shopping complex in Ladysmith.
  • 23 May – Newborn found dead at the Newcastle Landfill site.
  • 14 June – Newborn girl found alive and rescued from a pit toilet in Ga-Manamela in Moletji, Polokwane.
  • 21 June – Four-week-old boy found alive at a dumping site at Mhlambe in Winterveld, Pretoria.
  • 23 June – Phindile Phumgula (24), confessed to killing her newborn by stuffing paper and her fingers down the baby’s throat moments after its birth. Phumgula kept the body in a plastic bag in a washing basket for more than eight days. Fearing her employers would discover she was giving birth, she called the baby’s father for help but he refused to assist her, and she then became angry. – Maritzburg Sun.
  • 26 June – Newborn found dead, dumped in a bin in Milnerton.
  • 9 July – Newborn found dead in a sewage pipe in Cosmo City.
  • 9 July – Newborn boy found dead in a veld at the corners of Shari and Shaba Crescent in Lenasia.
  • 10 July – Newborn boy found dead after being dumped in veld in Homestead, Kimberley.
  • 6 August – Newborn found dead in a plastic bag inside a skip bin in Bellavista, Johannesburg south.
  • 13 August – Newborn found dead at a dumping site in Kookfontein, Meyerton.
  • 25 August – Asanda Pityana (26) charged with murder following the death of her newborn son after she allegedly dumped him at a dump site in Wells Estate, Port Elizabeth.
  • 4 September – newborn found dead in dustbin, Durban (third known incident this year).
  • 6 September – Nombulelo Nzamo (23) arrested for the dumping of a dead baby at a dumping site in Ext 7, Standerton.
  • 27 September – Newborn found dead inside a concrete dustbin, corners of Barry Hertzog Avenue and Linden Road, Linden, Johannesburg.
  • 27 September – Bodies of two babies suspected to be less than a year old found dumped in a Stellenbosch dumping site.
  • 28 September – Newborn boy found dead in a dustbin on Eider Road, Florida, Johannesburg west.
  • 8 October – Newborn boy found dead, wrapped in a plastic bag in a field along Leslie Road in Fourways, Johannesburg.

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