A minor miracle

SHOCKED: Letlhakeng residents at the scene

A three-day search for a missing 18-month-old baby boy ended in tears of joy for a Malwelwe family when the toddler was recovered alive at the bottom of their pit latrine on Monday afternoon.

Weak with dehydration, it is unlikely the little lad would have survived much longer if he had not been rescued when he was. He remains under observation in hospital in a stable condition, safely wrapped up in his mother’s loving arms.

Narrating the incredible survival tale to The Voice when we travelled to the small village – some 36km from Letlhakeng – on Tuesday, relatives said they realised the infant was missing on Saturday evening.

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54-year-old Boitshwaro Kentshitswe, the child’s great aunt, revealed the boy’s mother dropped him off, together with two cousins – aged two and four – at her place around 9am.

“I left to the lands leaving the boy with other siblings as usual. I arrived back home around 2pm while he was asleep. His mum came a little later and we fed the children around past four; after eating they went to play at their grandmother’s – my sister’s – place next door,” explained Kentshitswe.

However, when the two children returned at around 6pm, they did so without their young cousin. When quizzed as to his whereabouts, the youngsters told Kentshitswe he had remained behind with their grandmother, Kgalwane Kentshitswe.

A mad panic ensued when it was discovered this was not the case.

“By then it was already dark. Using a light, we started searching for him thoroughly, around the yard, toilets, neighbours and unoccupied houses. We continued looking till 3 in the morning, when we went to report to the police,” said Kentshitswe, adding they knocked at the station but got no answer.

“We returned at daybreak only to learn the officer on duty had been at the other side of the building,” she continued grimly.

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Although the cops joined the hunt, Sunday’s frantic search proved unsuccessful. The child was nowhere to be found; it was as if he had simply vanished off the face of the earth.

Growing increasingly desperate, on Monday Criminal Investigating Department (CID) teams from Lobatse and Molepolole were called in. They advised an intensive search be conducted inside the family’s pit latrines.

Using a big torch, a scan of Kentshitswe’s traditional toilet turned up nothing.

A minor miracle
NARRATING THE STORY: Boitshwaro Kentshitswe

However, across the road at Kgalwane’s loo, the search party hit gold; the baby was nestled deep inside.

Amazingly, those who had come to help look for the missing boy had been using the toilet throughout the three-day search!

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Describing the moment the child was saved, Kentshitswe said, “After breaking the back wall at the bottom, the police lit inside and put a log inside, hitting the wall gently on the side. We heard a baby crying softly. Most of the ladies who were gathered there, including myself, ran away in fear; the baby’s cry touched my heart and I couldn’t bear to watch.”

In a brief interview from the hospital, the boy’s relieved mother, 31, revealed her baby was recovering well.

“He can play, eat and even talk, though he still has difficulties to opening his eyes, which keeps on slowly opening and closing,” she said, adding this was still good progress as when they were first admitted he couldn’t open his eyes at all.

She is confident they will be discharged soon.

The family were quick to thank neighbours as well as the police for all their support, noting apart from the search, they also joined in praying and fasting for the little one’s safe return.

Meanwhile, briefly commenting on the happy ending, Letlhakeng Station Commander, Lekopanye Molwantwa confirmed the toddler was pulled out of the pit latrine on Monday afternoon.

The top cop cautioned the public to always report missing people immediately and to make sure they close their pit latrines, especially when they are young children around.

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