'Thuli hijacked my child'- Miss SA 2005 in custody battle
MISS South Africa 2005 Thuli Sithole is embroiled in a child custody pageant with a Joburg man who accused her of unlawfully trying to crown herself the mother of his daughter.
And Sithole is clinging on to the kid like a monkey to a stick.
Speaking to Sunday World this week, Xolani Mkhwanazi says he sired a baby with Sithole's cousin Xilouisane Sithole in 2004.
He says when Xilouisane died on News Year's Day in 2005, he farmed out the child to Sithole and her family, who live in Midrand, Joburg.
"Xilouisane and my daughter were living with their aunt in Vereeniging. But when she passed on I asked Thuli to look after the child as I was busy sorting out my life and I didn't have a stable job," he says. Mkhwanazi says after 2005, Sithole's mother Sophina visited him in Jeppestown, where he was running a laundry business, and asked him if they could adopt the little girl.
"I told her I didn't believe in adoption because that is Western culture," he says.
He says that after a couple of months, Sithole's husband Prince Cedza Dlamini requested a meeting with him in Braamfontein, in which he tried in vain to convince him to surrender custody of the child to the Sithole family.
"I told him that wasn't possible. That meeting almost turned ugly as I was very angry with him," he says.
Dlamini says it is untrue that he tried to talk Mkhwanazi into letting his wife adopt the child.
"He approached me and I told him I wouldn't entertain the matter. It is unfortunate that he has gone to the media to talk about a sensitive matter like this.
"It is not true that he hasn't seen the child for the past four years. Xolani hasn't supported the family in child's upbringing.
"He knows he can't afford to raise the child, so why would he want to take her?" he asks.
Thuli echoes his sentiments, saying: "Xolani voluntarily handed the child over to us because he lives in an uninhabitable condition.
"He always came to see her and would leave the odd R100 or R200 to support her.
"It is true that we wanted to adopt the child because he has not been playing his role as a father."
"But we have given up that fight a long time ago."
Thuli also dismisses as untrue Mkhwanazi's claim that the last time he saw his daughter was in 2008.
"He saw her in February 2010 and no one has stopped him from seeing her again.
"He is welcome to see her on weekends but he can't take her. He can't just uproot the child, who is going to a very good school and lives in a healthy environment.
"There is no guarantee that this child will get a meal if she lives with him." she says. "He shouldn't worry as the child knows him.
"She knows who she is and who her dad is as we have pictures of them together here.
"But we will not allow him to take the child."
Mkhwanazi claims, however, that the family stopped giving him unfettered access to his daughter.
He says they switched off their cellphones during the girl's second birthday party at Sithole's house in 2007.
"I bought a cake and a few toys as presents for her birthday.
"I arrived there but couldn't get into the house as the security guard at the boom gate refused to let me in.
"I tried to phone Thuli, her mother and sister but couldn't get hold of them because all their cellphones were off.
"I ended up giving the presents to some woman and her small child who were begging for food. I was heart-broken," he says.
Mkhwanazi then went to social workers for advice.
"They told me there was nothing they could do as I voluntarily gave them the child. But they phoned them and told them about my frustrations."
Xolani says it was only after the social workers' intervention that the Sitholes allowed him to see the child.
"We met at Chicken Licken at Boulders Mall in Midrand on Valentine's Day in 2008.
"That was the last time I saw my child. When I phone them to make an appointment to see my child they simply ignore my calls. Because they deny me access to my child, I want her back."
Mkhwanazi says he tried to approach lawyers to help him get his child back but aborted the process as they demanded a lot of money to go to court.
"I don't have money to pay lawyers to fight these people in court, please help me get my child back," he says.