Burned toddler: woman to appear in court on Friday

More than 1,000 people protest in Langa after assault on four-year-old

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More than 1,000 people marched in Langa last week to demand justice after a child was assaulted with boiling water. Photo: Sandiso Phaliso

  • A Langa woman is to appear in court on Friday charged with assault following severe burns to a child.
  • She is accused of throwing boiling water on four-year-old Unako Khala who lives in her street.
  • Last week more than 1,000 people marched to the woman’s house and to the police station demanding justice for the child.
  • This year until mid-June, 23 cases of child abuse by burning had been treated at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.

A 22-year-old woman will appear in court on Friday charged with assault, after a toddler living in her street was severely burned by boiling water.

On 24 June, four-year-old Unako Khala was burned on his chest, arm and ribs. Neighbours say he was swinging on a gate when the woman threw boiling water at him. She has appeared in the Bishop Lavis Magistrates’ Court, charged with assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm, according to police spokesperson F C van Wyk. She has not pleaded and her next appearance is on 14 July.

On 6 July more than 1,000 people from Langa and surrounding areas marched to the woman’s house demanding that she not apply for bail. The marchers went on to Langa police station where she was being held, asking why it had taken more than three weeks to make an arrest.

Unako has been discharged from the Red Cross Children’s Hospital after treatment.

Between January this year and mid-June, the hospital has dealt with 23 cases of children burnt related to abuse, said Carla Brown, head of Social Work Services at Red Cross. She said when a child was brought in with burn wounds, hospital staff interviewed the family and if the burn was child abuse rather than an accident, the hospital prepared documentation to be handed to police.

Yonela Mnyombolo, Unako’s aunt, said all she wanted was justice for Unako. “The scars on Unako will remain with him forever. When the case goes to trial we want to hear and understand why she did what she did. How could anyone do such a thing to a toddler?”

Activist Samkelo Njanana, who took part in the march, said the marchers were angry. “People will attend every court case to show solidarity to the family of the victim,” said Njanana.

“A burn injury happens in seconds but can change a person’s life forever,” said Brown. “Burn injuries not only affect the injured but also the families who love and support that person,” she said.

Brown said child abuse should be reported to police and to the Department of Social Development. “It is our responsibility as parents, guardians, community members, and caregivers to not look the other way, and to report cases of neglect and abuse.

“People may feel they don’t want to get involved in other people’s business. However, the safety and protection of all children is everybody’s business.”

Childline executive director Ricki Fransman said there could be long term effects on children who were deliberately burned. “The impact could be that the child develops anxiety and fear as a result of the trauma. The child could also struggle to trust adults.”

Fransman said trauma counselling was advisable both for the child and parents.

She said: “It is enshrined in the Children’s Act that it is the responsibility of all adults to protect children and not harm them.”

TOPICS:  Children Crime

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