Punched, kicked, strangled: a two-year-old’s final days of hell
Charge sheet lists a litany of violent abuse, allegedly at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend
The final month of two-year-old Michael Moletsane’s life was hell. For weeks he allegedly endured physical assaults from his mother’s boyfriend – kicks, punches, strangulation and, in one terrifying incident, a waterboarding-style torture.
But on January 24 2018, his frail body could take it no longer, and he succumbed to his injuries.
His mother, Lerato Moletsane, 28, and her boyfriend, Lucky Soka, 33, are charged with his murder.
They appeared in the High Court sitting in Palm Ridge in Johannesburg last week, where prosecutor Steve Rubin revealed that Lerato was mentally impaired and had the capacity of the 13-year-old.
The two are charged with murder, assault, child abuse and neglect, with the state’s indictment listing the abuse Michael suffered in the last few weeks of his life.
He was, on numerous occasions, punched, headbutted, kicked, thrown to the ground, strangled, dragged under a tap outside and forced face-first into the running water. However, the state has listed his cause of death as a result of “multiple blunt force injuries”.
Lerato has also been charged with “acting in the furtherance of a common purpose”.
Because of this, the court agreed to allow her to be sent for mental observation for 30 days, so this can be confirmed.
The case will return to court in March. Both accused remain free, having been released on a warning during their earlier appearances in 2018.
For most of his brief existence Michael lived with his maternal family in Mohlakeng in the west of Johannesburg and, according to his grandmother, Rosy Molestsane, he was a happy and healthy baby.
She told Times Select that although Lerato suffered from a mental disability, the family was able to care for Michael and his older sister.
But in October 2017 Lerato met Soka. The relationship evolved quickly, and Lerato ran away with her two children to live with him, but returned the following year because she had to work.
She and her children lived at Rosy’s for a few days a week and spent the rest of their time at Soka’s house a few kilometres away.
When Rosy noticed the toddler had a limp, Lerato told her the child had fallen over, an excuse she used again when the child returned a few days later with scratches on his forehead and red marks on his eyes.
“I was sick. I couldn’t take the child to the clinic myself [as] I was on crutches. I told Lerato she had to do it. She did,” said Rosy.
On 24 January, Rosy received a dramatic call from Lerato. “Michael isn’t moving ... Mama, Michael is dead,” she heard.
She immediately rushed to Soka’s home and found Michael lying naked on the floor, blood leaking from his nose.
When Soka entered the room, she accused him of killing the child, which he vehemently denied.
“I was so mad; if I knew how to kill I would have killed that boy. The neighbour said he had put (Michael) under a tap – on and off ... I think that’s why he died,” she said.
Miranda Jordan-Friedmann, of the anti-child abuse NGO, Women and Men Against Child Abuse, said she believed the child’s family and the community had failed to help him.
Jordan-Friedmann explained that it is only in cases of sexual abuse that others can be prosecuted for failing to report such crimes, and that there is no law like this when it comes to physical abuse.