The family of three-year-old Liyaqat ‘Lee’ Mentoor, who went missing over a year ago still have some hope that he is alive.
Lee, as he is affectionately known, went missing on March 16, 2018.
Speaking to News24, Lee’s aunt and family spokesperson Estelle Delport said, “until a body is found we are still hopeful that somebody has him”.
But their hope, Delport said, was slowly fading away. “Eighty percent, we feel he is gone, something has happened to him and the other 20 percent we believe that the fact that we haven’t found his body yet, we hope he is still there,” she said.
“It is so difficult for the mom Kaylah, the past few weeks have been hard because it was Mother’s Day and it will be his birthday soon,” she said.
As many as 500 children die annually of abuse and neglect, according to the Children’s Institute. Crime statistics showed that 985 children were murdered in 2017/2018, with most of these murders taking place in the Western Cape.
In 2018, soon after Lee went missing, police arrested Kaylah’s ex-boyfriend Onke Mashinini, who was the last person to be seen with the boy.
This, after blood was found in Mashinini’s parental home in Roodepoort, where he was allegedly babysitting the boy. Mashinini was denied bail and is still in custody.
“We conducted several searches, unfortunately in vain. There was blood found in the house and the DNA proved that the blood belonged to the child,” former station commander of Roodepoort Major General Sam Manala told News24.
He said they believed that Lee was killed. Mashinini is facing charges of murder, kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice.
He is expected to appear in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg for a pre-trial on June 25.
Delport told News24 that Mashinini was still not speaking to anyone and that “no matter what the situation is, we want to know what has happened”.
“We cannot have a memorial without knowing where he is. Kaylah says, ‘How can I say goodbye to my son if I don’t know if he is gone or not?’. It is very difficult for the mom.”
Delport said the police have kept mum about the progress of the case.
“We are faced with a situation where the police are not communicating with us. They are only communicating with the prosecutor.
“We are always the people who have to follow up with the police to find out if they have found anything,” she said.
One thing Delport remembers about Lee is his smile, she told News24. Delport said Lee’s favourite character at the time was Spiderman.
She added that it took a while for Lee to warm up to people. Kaylah previously told News24 that Lee “was such an angel when he was a baby. He was quiet, he never cried…You wouldn’t even know he was there. That’s how quiet he was”.
She said Mashinini was “fond” of her son, who started calling him daddy.
“Everywhere we went he (Mashinini) would say ‘this is my son, this is my child’. He would say it with so much pride.
“I knew he wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t expect something like this. I was completely shocked,” she said. On June 12 Lee will be turning 5.
The family plans to celebrate his birthday with other children at the No More Victims safe house in Eldorado Park. The place houses eight children from the age of newborn to 14 at a time, she said.
Delport said through the Liyaqat Lee Foundation which was started last year, they plan to assist the safehouse and to “fix it up a bit” on June 16.
“We want to assist people who are going through the same experiences we are going through and the same frustrations of dealing with the police.
“We were lucky to have the Eldorado CPF (community police forum) behind us. The foundation has not really done anything, but we are hoping to get funds and to raise an awareness,” Delport said.