I read an article yesterday written by my friend Tankiso Makhetha who is a crime reporter for Sowetan. He is a brilliant writer and reporter, but I don’t envy him. The things he comes across in his line of work leaves me in chills.
This particular article about a nanny that apparently killed a 21-month old child she is been taking care of for 17 months is no exception. Basically, the majority of this child’s life. I literally felt chills going down my spine.
I became Langelihle’s (the toddler) mom at that moment. The horror of coming back to your home to be welcomed by the apparent abduction of your child, only to later learn that he is dead, and is hidden in one of the rooms.
Chills. Emotions. Confusion.
What did a 21-month old child do to deserve his life being ended so abruptly?
What did a mother do to her employee that led her to such inhumanity?
Why? Why? Why?
I found myself wondering if there were any red flags? Or was this the very first incident? Is it isolated? Has the nanny done something similar in the past?
Have I been not being paying attention as a mother?
As a parent, you are inevitably going to carry around the burden of guilt for a very long time. Wondering whether or not there was something you could have done to stop it? Paid her more? She made sure she was still happy? Ensured that the baby, who can’t verbally express herself yet, is still happy and comfortable around the nanny?
It’s an unfortunate incident and I cannot, and do not want to, imagine the pain that family is currently going through.
But in turn, we have to wonder whether or not we REALLY know who our nannies and our home managers are.
How thoroughly do we conduct efficient background checks on these individuals? Corporates run criminal and credit record checks. Why? To ensure that they aren’t hiring someone with a criminal record that compromises their role and the company. And to also make sure that they are not employing a person with a compromised credit record that might become troublesome in the future in hopes of paying off their debts. It is not a perfect system, but it has its benefits.
Did I run these checks for my helper? No. I just went with my gut and employed her. I am assuming so did Langelihle’s mother. And today, she is in shambles because she trusted a woman she thought she knew with the safety and life of her child. A child she will never get the opportunity to see grow up. Never get to hold.
It might not be able to help you, but know who you are dealing with. Know who their previous employers are, and have a thorough chat with them. Nannies who have been found to neglect and abuse children are said to have a history of it.
Know where they live, and what circumstances they live in.
Know their family. This is not a normal office working relationship. This is someone you are bringing into your home, and want to immerse as part of the family. So, know theirs.
It will probably not be enough to stop such horrendous acts, but it will sure give you the knowledge of the person you call ‘part of the family’.
Which brings me to the same conclusion a lot of people reached after Uyinene’s death: We are not safe anywhere. Our children are not safe anywhere.
To Lerato Mnguni (mom) and the rest of Langelihle’s family, my most heartfelt condolences to you. May God give you the strength to journey through such a dark time.