When Nomaxhosa Mamkeli heard a baby’s cry late in the evening, she did not expect to find the wailing infant on her doorstep.
Ms Mamkeli, 52, who lives in Dunoon, said she was shocked to see the baby girl, wrapped only in one small blanket lying on her door mat on a winter’s evening in June last year.
“I looked around to see if anyone was there, but there was nobody. I picked the baby up and took her inside. I called the police but they did not come out that evening,” said Ms Mamkeli.
Ms Mamkeli lives in a shack with her husband, Mzunguli, 68, five children and seven grandchildren.
A few months earlier she had been admitted to hospital with kidney problems.
“I am not well, and no one works in our house. Both my husband and I are pensioners. I make a little bit of money by selling second-hand clothes on the side of the road. That’s our only income,” she said.
Ms Mamkeli decided to track the baby’s family down and her first stop was the Milnerton police station, where an officer directed her to a social worker in Milpark.
“The social worker said they did not have a place for the baby and wrote a letter for me to take to View Church. I get a few nappies from them every week. I also get porridge from Zusakhe, an NPO in Dunoon,” she said.
While walking in the area searching for the baby’s family, Ms Mamkeli said a few children playing in the street recognised the infant and told her the child’s name.
Ms Mamkeli went to the Dunoon clinic and asked if they had any records of a baby by this name and they confirmed that they did. They gave her the address in the records. This led her to the baby’s grandparents, who to her dismay, wanted nothing to do with their grandchild.
“They didn’t want to take her, and they don’t know where the mother is,” said Ms Mamkeli.
The baby girl sits on Ms Mamkeli’s lap, content with the piece of pie she is being fed.
The bond between the two is evident, and, unless told otherwise, one would think they are blood relatives.
In October, Ms Mamkeli noticed the baby was not breathing properly and called an ambulance. At Somerset Hospital, a doctor diagnosed the infant with tuberculosis.
Ms Mamkeli stayed by her side during her month-long hospital stay. She is now on TB treatment.
“In the beginning, I thought this baby was a big problem, but now I love her so much. I feel like she is my own. I want to keep her, but I need help,” she said.
Ms Mamkeli approached Elizabeth Arendse, who runs the non-profit organisation Boost Africa, for help. The NPO helps children and their families who are living in poverty to stay in school. It also gives support to child-headed households.
Ms Arendse said she was amazed by Ms Mamkeli’s strength.
“It was awfully brave of her to do all that she could for this baby. To raise a child is so expensive, and she is already struggling. My concern is that this child has no birth certificate. So many children in the area are not in school because they have no identification,” said Ms Arendse.
Sihle Ngobese, spokesman for Social Development MEC Albert Fritz, said the Children’s Act 2005 protected children from abandonment, which is a form of abuse.
Anyone who has found an abandoned child can call the toll-free number 0800 220 250 or walk into one of the 37 local offices where social workers will take on the case.
“People can approach the police or the Department of Social Development by calling the toll-free number. Depending on where they live, they will be directed to the nearest office where they will get immediate assistance of a social worker,” he said.
Mr Ngobese said the department worked with several NGOs such as Cape Town Child Welfare.