Jean-Jacques Cornish

Court ponders fate of switched children

A Pretoria court’s ordered an investigation into how two children were mistakenly switched at birth four years ago and how best to solve the imbroglio.

South Africa’s Centre for Child Law’s been given 90 days to come up with answers.

The two girls were born in Boksburg Hospital east of Johannesburg in 2010.

The mistaken identities were discovered when one of the fathers requested a paternity test after the child’s mother sued him for maintenance.

The parents’ blood tests did not match the child’s.

The woman, who has not been identified, then said she wanted her biological child back.

The other woman’s refused to give the child up.

The Centre for Child Law is tasked with investigating the facts and making a decision on what’s in the best interests of the children.

It was not yet clear how the children were swopped.

Possible solutions involve the children being swopped again or remaining with their current mothers, with or without visitation rights.

None of the respondents, including the provincial health minister, and the chief executive of the Tambo Memorial Hospital in Boksburg, where the children were born, have opposed the court application.

The mothers met last year and have been attending joint therapy sessions, arranged by the hospital, since December. They have met their biological daughters.


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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.