Child lay in morgue as family searched for her
She'd been hit by a car and then dumped next to a road to die
For five days, 10-year-old Kopano Molelekedi lay in a morgue in Soweto as a girl with no name.
Just 15km away, a family was frantically searching for their little girl who never made it to her mother’s home in the Jerusalema township outside Roodepoort.
Finally, on Sunday, a cousin working at Noordgesig Clinic made the connection when she saw the description circulated about the missing girl, and they tracked her to the morgue at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto.
This ended the search for Kopano, but is only the start of the healing for her family.
Police could confirm Kopano had been hit by a car in Jerusalema as she crossed the road to get to her mother’s house. According to witness statements, the driver picked her up and put her in his car.
He told bystanders he was taking her to hospital. Instead, she was found lying next to a road in Pennyville Park in Soweto, barely clinging to life. Another motorist who saw someone “being pushed from a car” stopped and found the little girl.
Seeing her bleeding, he initially thought Kopano had been raped, and he took her to nearby Noordgesig Clinic.
Kopano was declared dead that Thursday morning, September 6, but her family only found her on Monday in the mortuary.
Pathologists say the cause of death was a severe head injury resulting from being hit by a car and landing on the tar, the police and family confirmed.
“They told me that if she had gone to hospital she would still be alive,” her mother, Orapeleng Molelekedi, 29, said.
She had waited from 8.30am on the Thursday for Kopano to arrive, after she took a taxi from her father Lucky Ronkgomo’s house in Roodepoort to Jerusalema.
She had left his house at 7am, said Ronkgomo.
Molelekedi went to the police to open a missing person’s case but was allegedly told to first make sure her daughter hadn’t arrived at school.
Molelekedi went to Durban Deep Primary where Kopano was a Grade 5 pupil, but the school said she never showed up.
She and other residents kept searching for the little girl who was last seen wearing a pink T-shirt, blue jeans and white sandals.
Molelekedi turned to social media to ask for help, putting her daughter’s details on Facebook.
On Friday she was finally successful in opening a missing person’s case.
On her return home a resident told her Kopano had been hit by a car.
“The lady said Kopano was crossing the road [on Thursday] when a car hit her. A man got out and picked her up and put her in the car. The lady said: ‘What are you doing with that girl?’ and he said he was going to take her to hospital.”
Molelekedi and Kopano’s stepfather, Izack Moiloa, have not slept and have barely eaten since the accident.
On Tuesday, Durban Deep Primary held a memorial for the little girl who teachers described as gentle and caring.
Kopano’s foundation phase teacher, Memory Madigoe, remembers the child she watched grow up.
“We are worried about our little girls. What kind of a world are we living in? Her class was distraught when they heard what had happened; they are old enough to know that what happened to her can happen to them. They feel unsafe.
“We live in such a difficult world here [Durban Deep] and you could see in her eyes that her education meant a different life for her than the life of her parents. She had potential,” Madigoe said.
Kopano’s teacher, Lilly Mokgara, said the class of 5B were shattered when they heard the news.
“The class was chaotic, everyone was crying. It was hard for me because I need to be strong, but I had to keep leaving to cry. I just couldn’t help them and I couldn’t stand to see them in so much pain.”
Mokgara said the hardest part was that Kopano’s class had heard all the rumours about the little girl being abducted and raped. She said the children were now scared.
“Nobody wants to be in this environment [poor townships] but we come and teach here, we do it for the kids because they deserve the best so that they can have a better life.”
Kopano’s mother just wants justice for her little girl.
“The man took my little girl and dumped her on the side of the road.
“If you are reading this, confess and hand yourself over.”
Constable Monica Hangwani from the Orland East police confirmed that a case of culpable homicide had been opened and officers were still investigating. She did not respond to questions about the suspect.
Sergeant Juliet Mogale, spokesperson for the Roodepoort police, said a missing person’s case must be registered immediately. “There is no way you must wait 24 hours or whatever, especially if it is a child. They could have been abducted etc. So we do say, open the case immediately. If the family saw a name badge or knows the name of the officer (who turned them away the first time) I suggest they report the officer.”