Search continues for toddler thrown in river

Vusi Ndlovu

Vusi Ndlovu

The Mofokeng family have been praying that the police find the body of their three-year-old child.

Today is the 18th day since little Lerato Mofokeng of Bohlokong township, in Bethlehem, Free State, went missing.

Her father, Joseph Mofokeng, confessed to police that he threw the toddler in the Liebenbergvlei River on March 13.

He is said to have thrown the child in the river after he allegedly had an argument with her mother, Thekane Mofokeng.

Mofokeng has been charged with murder and has appeared in the Bethlehem magistrates' court twice. He will appear again on April 25.

Since the day that the child was allegedly thrown into the river, police divers have searched for her body. The search for little Lerato was only called off once - because of heavy rain on Monday.

The child's mother and her family have kept vigil at their home. The young mother keeps her hope alive with prayer, her neighbours and the daily visitors who come to comfort her.

Her cousin, Hapile Mabe, said: "We believe Lerato is in the river. We are hoping that her body will be found. People comfort us and pray with us. They have also been to the river to pray."

Mabe said the people who comfort them include members of the ANC Women's League, members of different churches and neighbours.

But Mabe believes that the police divers are not doing enough.

"They have not gone to the deep levels of the river. They are only searching the surface.

"We have accepted that the baby is dead, but all we want is her body so this can be over. This grief has gone on for too long," Mabe said.

Sitting on a mattress with candles burning in the room as is the custom when a loved one dies, Mofokeng cuts a lonely, distraught figure.

Asked if she did not think that Lerato's father was lying when he told them that he had thrown the child into the river, she said: "There is somebody who says he witnessed the incident. I believe him."

Police spokesman, Constable Christopher Mophiring, said police have not given up the search.

But he could not provide details of the exact distance that had been covered so far.