Police are investigating the death of a baby who died at an unregistered Phoenix creche.
The creche, Noah’s Educare, is still undergoing registration with the Department of Social Development. A department spokesman says the law allows for this, but he refused to tell Tabletalk how many children are at the creche, saying it is “irrelevant”.
Joslin Eland and her boyfriend, Tebogo Mahlabe, are grieving the death of their eight-month-old boy, Rorisang Eland, who died at the creche on Thursday February 15.
The infant’s autopsy results say he died of “natural causes”, but they don’t answer the many questions that haunt his parents: why was creche owner Chantel Maduo allegedly the only staff member with the children for most of the day? Why was Rorisang’s body allegedly moved from a bed to a cot?
Why did Ms Maduo not attend the funeral or extend her sympathies to the family?
Most startlingly, other than being told their child died of “natural causes” the couple say they still have no idea what caused his death.
Mr Mahlabe said when he called the Salt River mortuary on Monday he had been told that a report was still being compiled which would explain exactly how Rorisang died. And he could expect the report by this Friday or Monday next week at the latest.
That fateful Thursday started like any other.
Rorisang, the youngest of the couple’s three children, was laughing on the bed before making his morning journey to creche on his mom’s back.
But later that afternoon, Ms Eland got a call at work urging her to come home at once.
“When I turned the corner at the creche, I saw the paramedics. I thought perhaps he had gotten sick or hurt. It never entered my mind that he could be dead.”
As she went through the gate, she saw her boyfriend. He was sitting with his head in his hands. He told her Rorisang had died.
“He was lying in the cot,” said Ms Eland, recalling the moment she saw her son’s lifeless body. “He looked like he was asleep on his stomach. The paramedic was busy with him and told me I couldn’t touch him.”
Ms Eland and Mr Mahlabe watched their son’s tiny body being carried out in a white plastic bag.
Ms Eland was still breastfeeding her son and had to buy tablets to dry up her milk a few days later.
Rorisang was buried in the Maitland cemetery a week after his death.
“My eldest son wants to know why they put his brother in that ‘white box in the church’,” said Ms Eland.
Milnerton police station spokeswoman Captain Nopaya Madyibi said an inquest docket had been opened at the station on Thursday February 15.
“On arrival to attend to the complaint, the paramedics confirmed the death of an eight-month-old baby boy,” said Captain Madyibi.
She said an autopsy had found that Rorisang had died of natural causes. The case was still under investigation.
Ms Eland said only one teacher had attended the funeral.
“She told me she and the other teacher at the creche were at a workshop that day and that they returned to the creche around 2pm. When they returned, the principal left for an appointment and told them Rorisang had already been fed and was asleep in a room.
“When they went to check on him later, his arm was stiff, facing up in the air and his face was covered by his blanket. She said one of them moved the baby from the room to the cot before the police arrived.”
A post on Noah’s Educare Facebook page made two days before Rorisang’s death reads: “Hectic and exciting year for Noah’s Educare as two of our teachers are doing their NQF level 4 this year.”
Department of Social Development spokesman Sihle Ngobese said the department was aware of the death, had offered counselling to the family and had supported those staff and children at the creche traumatised by the incident.
“The facility itself is undergoing a registration process as per the Children’s Act of 2005, and is known to the department. As a precaution, the department investigated this matter in partnership with the City of Cape Town, and the facility was determined to be safe to operate. The department continues to express its condolences to the family of the deceased child.”
He said it was not uncommon for a creche to operate while still being in the process of registering. He refused to tell Tabletalk how many children attended Noah’s Educare, saying it was “irrelevant” to the case.
On Thursday March 1, Tabletalk went to Noah’s Educare, in Venus Way, and asked Ms Maduo for comment. She said she first wanted to speak to Ms Eland before giving us comment. We left our contact details with Ms Maduo.
We called the creche the following day but were told Ms Maduo was not there. Also as this edition of Tabletalk went to print on Tuesday March 6, Ms Eland said she had not heard from Ms Maduo.
Tabletalk also tried calling Ms Maduo several times until the edition went to print but her number remained engaged.