He was switched at birth, ‘but I love him as my own’
Mothers have come to terms with raising each other's child as they desperately await court-ordered payouts
Eight years after a boy and a girl were switched at birth in an East Rand hospital, they were finally “ready” to be told who their real biological mothers were.
Their lives could not have turned out more different either: the girl goes to a private school, while the boy attended a government school with 43 kids in a class.
The one mother has a job and is in a relationship, the other struggles without a job and depends on two childcare grants totalling R800 a month.
Both mothers, who still live on the East Rand, wait desperately to be paid a settlement amount as ordered by the court.
Ayanda (not her real name) said on Monday that although she has given birth to two children, she considers herself the mother of three: two boys and a daughter.
Her eight-year old biological daughter is being raised by another woman, after the babies were swapped at birth by health workers at Boksburg’s Tambo Memorial Hospital.In turn, she is raising an eight -year-old son who is not hers biologically, but whom she loves as her own.
“Both the [ eight-year old] children are my kids. I can relate to both.”
The mix-up was only discovered when the children were five years old and one of the moms had to have a paternity test so she could sue for child maintenance.
To protect their children’s identity neither mom can be named.
In 2015, a court settlement was reached whereby each mom would continue to raise the child they had raised since birth, but they would have access to their biological children.
The Centre for Child Law was involved in the case to help the mothers and children.
Then the respective parents filed a civil suit against the Department of Health for a payout. In March this year, the mom and dad who are raising the little girl reached two settlements, since they filed separately. Their lawyer, Peter Jordi, said they have still not been paid out.
Ayanda, who is unemployed, has not settled with the Gauteng Department of Health yet, but the court ordered that she receive an interim payment of R100,000 in April before the court ruled on a final amount.She says she often goes to bed hungry despite being a type 1 diabetic, and is painfully thin.
The mistake was discovered three years ago when she took the children’s father to court to force him to pay maintenance. Her youngest son was five and her oldest seven.
She was called in by the private hospital that administered the test and told they were not the boy’s biological parents.
“It was so dramatic. I saw these things in movies. Now I was living a movie”.
She was so shocked that when she walked home she was almost hit by two cars.
Ayanda contacted Tambo Memorial Hospital and within two weeks they had traced her biological daughter.
The second mother was so shocked that she was admitted to a psychiatric unit at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital for two weeks, Ayanda said.
Since then the two moms have gone from total strangers to friends. “I am like the sister she never had,” says Ayanda. “I could not hate her, it was not her fault.”
The other mother did not respond to numerous calls.A psychologist still manages the situation, seeing the moms and children together at a park for a picnic twice a month.
According to Ayanda, the psychologist hasn’t been paid either.
The two mothers speak about child rearing and even personal issues while picnicking. They haven’t visited each other’s homes and Ayanda hasn’t met the other mom’s boyfriend.
She hopes to give her younger son the same quality education as her biological daughter.
Her house has aged orange paint, the couch fabric is badly torn and frayed, and the ceilings need to be repaired.
Now that her two boys know she is not the younger one’s biological mother, she worries it could affect their relationship.
“I hope this doesn’t come between them. The two boys are very close.”
On Monday, Ayanda was discharged after spending 10 days in hospital because her blood sugar had been out of control. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of seven.
Sometimes she has insulin on an empty stomach because there is no money for food, she claims.“Taking medicine on an empty stomach is a dangerous thing to do.”
What saddens her is that her former partner is not taking an interest in either child.
The unemployed man still does not pay maintenance for the 12-year-old, she says.
Henk Strydom, Ayanda’s lawyer, asked why the Life Esidimeni families have been paid and Ayanda hasn’t. He was told by the sheriff of the court to pay a non-refundable R14,500 to attach the Department of Health’s assets to force them to pay.
“My client doesn’t have two cents to rub together.”
He has written many letters to state attorneys.
“I don’t blame the lawyers. If their client won’t pay, what can they do. The MEC for Health owes many of my clients millions. She doesn’t pay.”
The department did not comment by the time of publication, despite being given a deadline.