We want justice – Tamia Botha’s family speaks

A day after the family of four-year-old Tamia Botha heard the terrible news of her death – we see her small clothes still hanging on the washing line – family members continue to cry as they scroll through photographs of her on their cellphones.

Since the little girl’s death, the yellow house in Chicago, in Paarl where she lived, has been busy as people convey their condolences.

They last saw Tamia on Sunday. She was playing outside near her house. Her mother, Udene – who describes her as a chatty, friendly girl – said she was worried that she had not seen her daughter for a while and instructed her son to look for her. However, he could not find her, and Botha started searching for Mia.

“I walked up and down, but I could not find her. So I told the people behind us that I couldn’t find her,” she said.

She explains it was just before load-shedding and started getting nervous.

“When load-shedding started, it was dark. The police came out, and we kept on searching. People were walking up and down in the area; it was pitch dark, and some people even used their cell phone torches,” she said.

Ms Botha said the police brought her home in the early morning, but she could not fall asleep; she was unsettled.

She said a few hours later, she and community members were up early and were on the road again.

“We went to the river; we went looking everywhere, from Chicago and everywhere,” she said.

Leandra Matthee, who was part of the search since she heard that Tamia went missing, said they spent many hours searching and hoped the child was perhaps safe somewhere at someone’s place as the community always looks after each other’s children.

“I remember telling Mia’s mommy not to worry. Someone perhaps thought she was lost or something and took her in and kept her until load-shedding ended or the next day. At no point did it cross our mind that she may have been murdered,” she said.

Matthee added that at a stage in the afternoon, she took a break as they were exhausted and heard a child screaming from a distance.

“The child was screaming my name, but I was not really paying attention because there had been false news throughout the day. Finally, the child came closer, and I looked up. At this stage, the child said they found Mia, and we stood up. But then the child said: ‘We found Mia dead’, and I sprinted. Sadly, unfortunately, it was true,” she said.

She said she was in complete shock.

Botha said she refused to look at the body. All she saw from where she was standing was her child’s legs and the navy-blue boots with fur inside.

“I couldn’t believe what I saw; I was completely shocked. So broken, in pieces,” she said.

She wiped tears from her face and said she never imagined finding her child dead.

“I am angry, sad, furious. I hoped to see my little girl alive, not dead in a field. I want the person who did this to be found; we want justice,” she said.

Matthee said that if load-shedding weren’t happening at the time, maybe they would have found Tamia alive.

“When load-shedding hit, it was completely dark. Whoever it was could have walked past us with Mia, and we didn’t know. This load-shedding is killing us; people are not safe when the lights are down. This is not okay,” she said.

Action Society has visited the family, where we conveyed our condolences and will assist the family. In addition, Botha has mandated Action Society to help with further investigation on the matter and with prosecution oversight.

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