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Mom of slain two-year-old declared fit to stand trial

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The mentally disabled mother of slain two-year-old Michael Moletsane will be tried alongside her boyfriend in connection with the child’s brutal death.
This was revealed in court on Tuesday, months after Lerato Moletsane was sent for mental observation to determine if she was fit to stand trial.
Moletsane and Lucky Soka appeared at the high court, sitting in Palm Ridge, in January, with the state alleging that Soka had subjected Michael to months of beatings. The child was also the victim of an alleged incident of waterboarding before his frail body could no longer take the abuse. He died in January 2018.
At the pair’s court appearance in January 2019, the court was told by prosecutor Steve Rubin that Moletsane’s family had revealed to him that Lerato suffered from a mental disability, and that it was estimated she had the mental capacity of a 13-year-old.
Because of this, the court agreed to allow her to be sent to Sterkfontein hospital for a 30-day observation to determine if she was fit for trial.
Following a lengthy delay and two court appearances since the court ordered she go for  observation, she returned to court on Monday, with a report from Sterkfontein.
While the report was not submitted to the court – meaning it was not accessible to the public – Rubin told the court that a trial date had been set for both accused. While he would not be drawn to comment on the contents of the report, if the report had said Lerato was not fit for trial, a trial date for her would likely not have been set.
The pair are out on bail. They face murder, assault, child abuse and neglect charges and have been ordered to return to the high court in Johannesburg in August for trial.
In January, the Moletsane family spoke to Times Select about Michael’s final months alive.
For the majority of his brief existence, he lived with his maternal family in Mohlakeng and, according to his great-grandmother, Rosy, he was a happy and healthy baby. While Lerato suffered from a mental disability, between herself, her brother Nkululeko, her sister Gloria and her grandmother, the family was able to care for the child and his older sibling.
It was in October 2017 that Lerato met Soka, the man who would later become her boyfriend. The two-month relationship evolved quickly, and Rosy was shocked to find that after having left her home for the weekend to attend her sister’s anniversary party, Lerato had run away from home with her two children.
Rosy said she was wasn’t too worried about Lerato, and didn’t feel the need to get the police involved. If anything happened to the disabled young woman, her friends would alert her family, she said – although the grandmother did learn the 28-year-old had moved in with her boyfriend.
For a few weeks in December, she rarely spoke telephonically with Lerato, and when she did get through, the call would be dropped after a brief greeting. It was only in January 2018 that Lerato returned home with the children, as she needed to return to her job as a street sweeper.
At that point, the child seemed alright, but Lerato made it a point to only stay at her grandmother’s home for a few days a week, opting to spend the rest of her time at Soka’s residence a few kilometres away. On the nights she was at Rosy’s home, the grandmother heard the child crying louder than usual, but warned Lerato that he likely needed more food now that he was no longer an infant.
It was a few days later that she noticed the two-year-old had a limp. His mother told Rosy the child had fallen over, an excuse she used again when the child returned a few days later with scratches on his forehead and red marks on his eyes.
“I was sick. I couldn’t take the child to the clinic myself because I was on crutches. I told Lerato she had to do it. She did,” said Rosy.
On January 24, Lerato had been spending the day at Soka’s home, and Rosy received a dramatic call.
“Michael isn’t moving … mama, Michael is dead,” she heard.
She immediately went to Soka’s home, and found Michael lying naked on the floor, blood leaking from his nose. When Soka entered the room, she immediately accused him of killing the child, which he vehemently denied.
“I was so mad, if I knew how to kill I would have killed that boy. The neighbour said he had put Michael under a tap – on and off… I think that’s why he died,” she said.
According to the state’s charge sheet, the child was, on numerous occasions, punched, head-butted, kicked, thrown to the ground, strangled, dragged under a tap outside and forced face-first into the running water. However, the state has listed his cause of death as a result of “multiple blunt force injuries”.

 

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