A secret love affair lies at the heart of the abduction of baby Siwaphiwe Mbambo‚ which culminated in her being found after two nights with her kidnappers‚ a high-speed car chase – and the arrest of her mother.
Siwaphiwe was kidnapped on Friday in what police are now saying was a staged hijacking.
The Times can reveal that the missing one-month-old baby had been holed away at a house in New Hanover in central KwaZulu-Natal for nearly 48 hours.
While search parties combed bush and roadside scrub across Durban‚ Siwaphiwe had been ferreted away to the distant farming community.
Two independent police sources‚ with intimate knowledge of the case‚ said that a break in the case came when her mother S’bongile Mbambo‚ under intense scrutiny and questioning by detectives‚ revealed her secret affair.
Armed with the identity of her lover‚ detectives threw out a wide drag-net which eventually closed in on him as he was returning the child to Durban between midnight and 1am yesterday.
The vehicle was eventually forced to stop on the N3 near the Mariannhill Toll Plaza.
Officers stationed at the Toll Plaza had seen a car matching the description of one registered in his name‚ and began chasing the vehicle as it sped toward the city. When it eventually drew to a halt‚ a wailing Siwaphiwe was found inside‚ wrapped in blanket.
Also in the vehicle were her mother’s secret lover and the man’s girlfriend.
The pair‚ along with the baby’s mother S’bongile‚ are now behind bars.
National SAPS spokeswoman Colonel Athlenda Mathe confirmed the arrests.
“It’s unfortunate that one of the people arrested and in police custody is the mother of the baby herself‚” she said.
S’bongile Mbambo had earlier told police that she and her eight-year-old son had been forced out of their white Toyota Yaris at gunpoint by two “hijackers” near the City View shopping centre in Greyville.
The recovery of the car hours later‚ undamaged with only the baby and her nappy-bag missing‚ had fuelled the doubts of seasoned detectives who were roped in to find her.
A police source said the paternity of the baby was being investigated.
Sources told The Times that the interrogation of the trio‚ held at the Durban Central police cells‚ continued yesterday after their arrests.
As they faced a barrage of questions‚ Siwaphiwe’s father Christopher arrived at the police station to “see his baby”.
Mbambo‚ a polygamist who also has eight children with his first wife‚ spurned journalists waiting at the gate‚ saying that he would not answer questions in the wake of his wife’s arrest.
The three suspects are expected to appear in the Durban Magistrate’s court this morning. A special prosecutor was appointed to work with police.
Siwaphiwe has been placed under the care of social workers.
The search spawned the hashtag #BringBackDurbanBaby as South Africans shared their dismay at a baby being kidnapped‚ and led to a massive police operation involving officers‚ vehicles and even aircraft.
Acting national police commissioner‚ Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane‚ said it was disappointing that people had taken advantage of South Africans’ caring nature.
“We‚ as the South African Police Service‚ are extremely grateful that this innocent baby has been rescued from a dubious situation‚ to say the least. We thank our members‚ all other law enforcement agencies and security companies who stepped up to assist‚ as well as the civic minded members of the public who joined forces to assist in the search. We are a wonderful‚ caring society and it is disappointing when people take advantage of their fellow South Africans’ trust and belief in humanity. False claims of crimes which have an entire nation and beyond in a state of sorrow and anxiety‚ should be condemned‚” he said.
Earlier‚ speaking through Mathe‚ he said that the false crime report was a major concern.
“While we had our members there‚ conducting wide searches‚ it meant another community‚ another individual‚ did not have our service there for them‚” said Mathe.