The paternal grandmother of Zephany Nurse says the family had never wavered in their faith that she would return to them.
The face of Zephra Nurse, after whom Zephany was named, lit up when she told the Plainsman the meaning of her granddaughter’s name: “God’s hidden treasure”.
Twenty-two years ago, on April 30 1997, Zephany, born at Groote Schuur Hospital to Celeste and Morne Nurse, was taken from her mother’s side when she was just three days old.
Last week, after having had her identity protected by a court order since she was found in February 2015, Zephany revealed the name she had been given by the family who raised her.
A day later, Zephany Two mothers. One daughter, penned by Joanne Jowell, was released and since then the Nurses, who live in Rocklands, have been inundated with requests for interviews, which they have refused.
Ms Nurse said in her book – the Bible – God says he would start and complete his work.
“And it is a good work,” she said, relating the verse from the book of Philippians, verses one to six, to the story of Zephany.
Grandfather Adam Nurse said Zephany’s story should be an encouragement to Mitchell’s Plain and the broader community to have faith.
Ms Nurse said Zephany was a strong woman, “whom the Lord had made”.
During a radio interview last week, Zephany spoke of her strength coming from Lavona Solomon, the woman who raised her and who was convicted for kidnapping, in 2016. Her grandparents, refuted this, saying she had been brainwashed into believing that her strength came from the woman who took her.
“They could not change the DNA. The goodness comes from the DNA. It is not what they imprinted in her mind,” Ms Nurse said.
Ms Nurse said they never wanted to move from the house, where they had raised their children, prepared Zephany’s nursery and believed that she would be returned to their door.
During Celeste’s pregnancy the couple had lived at the Nurse family home where the grandparents kitted out the baby’s room.
“The baby’s cot and everything. It was blue, and blue is nice for a girl too, with green and yellow,” said Ms Nurse.
“Zephany is the only child with green eyes just like Morné,” she said.
Ms Nurse recalled her son’s joy the day Zephany was born.
“Morné said to me ‘Mummy ek het die mooiste kind in die hele wêreld’ en ek dink elke pa sê daai. Daai kind het blonde streaks aan die punte van haar hare,” she said.
She had suggested he get a camera and take photographs of the child.
Only the day after Zephany’s birth did Ms Nurse get to take the photographs, which then had to be used to help find the kidnapped baby a day later.
Ms Nurse recalls how, on that day, her son raced from his workplace, in Diep River, to Groote Schuur Hospital, and was pulled over by traffic police.
“He was sobbing when the police asked him why he was speeding.
“‘My kind is gesteel’, sê hy vir hulle. Toe maak hulle vir hom die pad oop,” said Ms Nurse.
“You know what that child went through that day, Morné?
“You know what Celeste went through? Celeste, when the nurse woke her up to ask her where’s her baby, she ran up and down the hospital with drips hanging and blood gushing from her arms,” she said.
Despite the couple having subsequently divorced, and in light of all the years shared, she considers Celeste her daughter.
“She suffered so much I can’t say anything bad about her.”
Ms Nurse said at the time, then Minister of Health Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, had wanted to keep things quiet because the baby had been stolen from a public hospital.
She said after Celeste returned home, she would at times run to the gate because she thought she heard a baby crying and thought it may be her stolen child.
Ms Nurse said a book about their trials and challenges over the years would be a bestseller but they were not in a hurry to make money off their experience.
“It is our pain. It is our child’s pain,” she said.
Mr Nurse said: “This happening with Zephany is a world-shaking story. Now that is how great God is and we never gave up for 18 years. Each year we gave a party to celebrate her life and we would pray and trust God that she would return.”
Ms Nurse said, in a television interview about Zephany, a psychologist had advised that Zephany would face many attacks.
“People are going to grill her for this, and it is already happening,” she said.
But, she said, Zephany was a grown woman, who had to
make her own choices and she would have to live with those decisions.