It was 3am when the anguished heard a knock yesterday, but she least expected to see her six-year-old daughter standing at the door.
The girl's clothes and legs were covered in blood. She had been repeatedly raped by a man who had abducted her while she was playing with other children on Sunday.
The child had been missing for two days.
The names of the mother and daughter have been withheld to protect them.
Inspector Kay Makhubela, spokesman for the Jabulani, Soweto, police, said yesterday: "The child is badly hurt and she will be taken to a gynaecologist for assessment of the injuries."
Makhubela said a rape docket had been opened.
At dawn yesterday, the girl was dropped off at the gate of the house where she, her two sisters and mother rent a back room in Mofolo North, Soweto.
The child's father died in March and her mother is wearing the traditional black mourning dress.
The mother said: "I was wide awake when I heard the knock on the door and could not believe my eyes when I saw her standing alone in the dark."
She said that at first she did not know what to say to her but she finally uttered the words: "Where do you come from?"
She said her daughter had told her that she had been at an unknown man's shack.
The child was abducted outside her home by a man under the pretext that her mother had sent him to take her to the doctor.
"When I realised that she was not returning home I went to the police and reported her missing.
"I had conducted a search on my own and when I could not find her at the homes of her friends I went to the police."
She said she had not been able to sleep or eat for the past two nights she had spent without her daughter.