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'My child is missing': mom's anguished search for daughter, 3, ends in tragedy

Three-year-old Ansia Kheha was eating a meal at home just a few blocks away from where her mother Johanna was setting up a street stall, but she wandered off - and vanished.

A search was launched by family members and the community when her mother realised Ansia was missing. It was in vain.

Ansia’s lifeless body was found stuffed in a plastic bin by a person collecting plastic in a field in Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg, on Thursday. Police spokesperson Capt Kay Makhubele said the child had a stab wound to her upper body.

“Why did he have to kill and rape an innocent and defenceless child? Why must we be killed?” said Johannesburg MMC for community development Margaret Arnolds during a visit to the family on Friday.

A colourful bouquet of flowers lay next to the pile of rubbish in which forensic experts found Ansia's body. Empty cigarette boxes, partially burnt children's sneakers, syringes and condoms were among the rubbish.

Seated outside the family home about 6km from the crime scene, Ansia's aunt, Artilia Vilanculos, recounted her final moments.

Vilanculos said Ansia disappeared on Tuesday.

A bouquet of flowers marks the place where Ansia Kheha, aged three, was found murdered.
A bouquet of flowers marks the place where Ansia Kheha, aged three, was found murdered.
Image: Alon Skuy/Sunday Times

Her mother, who was with the police on Friday morning, was the last person to see her alive.

Vilanculos said Kheha sells potatoes at the corner a few metres away from the house, working for a stallholder.

“She left with her child to ask her employer whether she was on duty. The employer apparently said she was. 

“She then came to the house and dished up food for the child. She left the child in the house and decided to take out stock while the child was eating.

"After packing the stock, she intended to return to pick up her daughter, but the child finished eating and got out of the gate,” said Vilanculos.

Ansia was accustomed to seeing her mother at the stop sign where the street stall is situated.

The family were later told “the child cried because she did not see her mother where she is used to seeing her.”

After realising her child was missing, Kheha ran to tell Vilanculos.

“She arrived to tell us she could not find her child. We came here to look for the child and the community helped. They used a whistle and we looked and looked,” she said.

People nearby informed the family that Ansia had left with an elderly woman, said Vilanculos.

“The elderly woman looked left and right. She did not go to neighbours to ask whether they knew the crying child or to find out where her mother was.”

Arnolds, accompanied by community members, said: “We are here to say we are tired. We have marched to the Union Buildings and parliament but women and children are being killed daily. ”

“Why kill us? If you are in relationship and are tired of us, let us go. It is time for men to take the forefront and lead the way.”

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