Mum in court over alleged fake kidnap of baby

A South African mother accused of fabricating the kidnapping of her one-month-old baby girl appeared in court on Monday after her claims triggered a national manhunt.

Sibongile Mbambo, 34, was remanded in custody at a court in the Indian Ocean city of Durban along with her partner Phumlani Mbokazi, according to local media.

Mbambo reported to police Friday that she had been accosted in Durban by two armed suspects who forced her, and her eight-year-old son, out of her car and stole the vehicle - with baby Siwaphiwe still in the back seat.

The apparent kidnapping sparked nationwide alarm after police released photographs of Siwaphiwe and the car was found abandoned and empty.

Television and radio stations broadcast repeated appeals for the public to look out for the abducted baby, as the police and emergency services launched a major search operation.

Mbambo was interviewed on radio pleading for the men to return the child, and a 250,000 rand ($20,000) reward was offered by the authorities.

After interviewing Mbambo, police erected a road block at a motorway toll gate outside Durban and found the unharmed baby in a car on Sunday.

"Too many inconsistencies emerged during the interviews especially in terms of the initial reporting to the police of how the incident developed," detectives said in a statement.

They said three people including the baby's 34-year-old biological mother, another woman and a man have been arrested.

"Diversion of policing resources by people with selfish motives cannot be tolerated," police added.

Mbambo appeared in court with a shawl across her face.

The magistrate said a DNA test would be conducted to determine the baby's paternity, the News 24 website reported.

No charges have yet been brought and the baby was taken into social care.

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