Christinah Motlhabane
RELIEVED: Oratile feared she had lost her child forever

Baby Betty meets mum after eight years of heartache

For the last eight years, Oratile Morris feared she would never see her daughter again.

Her little girl, Betty Morris, was just 19 months old when she was kidnapped by the father, Nelson Mangena, and smuggled into Zimbabwe to live with his family.

That was in 2016.

Three years later, the man-hunt for Mangena, 41, led to his arrest in Tonota.

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He confessed to taking his child and revealed she was with his relatives in Gokwe, a remote village in the middle of Zimbabwe.

Although court ordered Baby Betty be returned to her mother, it did not happen; she remained in Zim, growing up far away from her devastated mum.

Now, thanks to Oratile’s perseverance, with a little pressure from The Voice and a concerned Magistrate, mother and daughter have finally been reunited, in an emotional meeting financed by the Botswana government.

Recounting the moment she laid eyes on her little girl again for the first time in eight years, Oratile says she recognised her baby straight away, even though the toddler she knew is now a grown nine-year-old child.

“I was overjoyed and too emotional; it was the best, most wonderful feeling in the world. I truly thought I would never see my daughter again, and then to be holding her in my arms like that, you can’t imagine!” she tells The Voice.

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Accompanied by a social worker and a police officer, the 38-year-old left for Zimbabwe on 26 April, flying to Kwekwe from Gaborone.

“We spent a night there and the next day proceeded to Gokwe, a village around 250 kilometers away driving on a dusty road. When we got where my daughter was, which is at her grandmother’s place, we found people gathering waiting for us,” reveals the Shashemooke native, smiling as she speaks – something The Voice has rarely seen in our many previous meetings with her.

The travelling party were ushered into what Oratile describes as a ‘beautifully decorated cool mud hut’, where the granny was seated.

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“She was with the village elders and Betty’s teacher. She’s doing Standard One, I can’t believe it! It was very emotional. Betty was then called inside. Upon setting eyes on her, I nearly fainted. She came straight to me and hugged me for some minutes,” narrates the made-up mum, her moist eyes threatening to ruin her make-up.

“My daughter was excited to see me. Her grandmother then told me she was happy to see me as she long wanted to meet me. Food was served and tea. Then the old woman went to the other room where she came with her small radio and played it and I danced with Betty. I found myself smiling properly for the first time in eight years!”

Despite the heartache she has suffered, Oratile, who has four other children, says they have agreed to raise Betty together with her Zimbabwean relatives.

“We are just waiting for approval from the authorities so my child can visit me here in Botswana and meet her other siblings,” she explains, adding Betty was very upset when she had to depart.

“I nearly died of stress not knowing where my child was. Now I sleep like a baby. I also thank the Zimbabwe people for raising my child. We are now happy, and call each other every day.”

Sadly, there are no photos of the happy reunion, as the phone Oratile used to take pictures belonged to her nephew, who deleted them by mistake on her return to Botswana.

For Oratile, however, the happy memory of that magical moment will be imprinted in her mind forever!

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