For Neresi Boyd and Violet Nkhalango, the anxiety and uncertainty are finally over. The truth has come out about the real identity of Eliza, the 24-year-old girl each woman was claiming to be her daughter.
Nkhalango is Eliza’s mother—an outcome her rival has accepted.
The five-minute ruling by magistrate Esme Tembenu of the Blantyre Child Justice Court on Friday seemed like eternity for the two camps belonging to the women who have been fighting over the girl.
Earlier, minutes before the court ruling, a representative from Mwaiwathu Private Hospital vindicated Nkhalango’s claims as Eliza’s mother, an announcement that was met with a sharp, wide grin from Nkhalango, a quick raise of both hands and a sigh of relief and vindication as she looked around the courtroom for anything close to support or a cheer.
Before Nkhalango’s name was called out, the representative displayed two sheets of paper bearing the long-awaited DNA results. She showed the court as she explained that each person has a genetic make-up totalling 15.
“The genes of a mother are automatically shared with her child. The first paper shows ticks against all of the 15 while the other paper shows just a few. This means the more ticks point to the mother of the child. The name on this one is Violet Nkhalango. She is Eliza’s mother,” she said.
A month seemed like eternity for both families since blood samples were flown to South Africa for the truth to be finally let out about the identity of Eliza.
Friday marked the end of accusations, counter-accusations, psychological and mental torture and sleepless nights. One woman was vindicated after being labelled a child thief and taunted every day.
A relation from Boyd’s camp wept after Tembenu finally ruled in Nkhalango’s favour. Relatives from the two sides filled the courtroom, silent. A few baby cries and coughs could be heard as Tembenu read out the background to the matter.
No emotions were displayed at this point as both camps held their breaths. Tembenu described the case as a request for a maternity test from Neresi Boyd.
“Before I pass my judgement, the court mediated the case between Boyd and Nkhalango on a child dispute resolution. As there seemed to have been many similarities in the two women’s assertions, we asked them to go through medical tests and the first was age assessment at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH).
“The case was not completed because the hospital results indicated Eliza was over 18 years old. Since one mother claimed the daughter to be 18 and the other said 24, we suggested a DNA test to close the matter,” she said.
Tembenu told the court that both women were counselled to help them understand that no two people could bear the same child, so they should accept the results of the test.
Both women were called to the front and none of them showed any emotion. As the court rose and Tembenu exited, a court official advised both parties to maintain calm and head straight home without incident. Everybody left the courtroom in silence.
Outside the court, a distraught Boyd accepted her fate, saying, “Zonse ndi mmene zimakhalira. Chachikulu ndikuti zoona zadziwika,” [Such is life. The important thing is that the truth has been known].
On her part, Nkhalango said: “Now I can rejoice. A lot changed in my household, including Eliza’s attitude. She wanted the truth from me and you cannot blame her after the year-long ordeal. Even her education suffered.”
Eliza, too, was ecstatic. She said she finally believed in her mother all over again.
Boyd started the court battle after she saw Eliza at a school in Machinjiri in 2011. She was convinced the girl was her own daughter who went missing at the age of six and answered to the same name.
She took the matter to court. Nkhalango maintained Eliza was hers and even showed her child healthcare card and school registration number for Standard One to prove she bore and raised her.