Streetkids stuck in squalor

2009-08-10 00:00

DESPITE promises to help a community of destitute street children living in the CBD, the Premier’s office and other government institutions have yet to attend to their needs.

The Witness previously published a story about the plight of children who live in squalid conditions on Henrietta Street in the shadow of the Premier’s office (The Witness July 7, 2009). At the time, the Premier’s office released a statement saying that the Human Rights Directorate would “co-ordinate efforts to help the children”. This commitment included: visible policing to deal with crime; accommodation; food parcels; counselling and drug rehabilitation; identity documents in order to access social grants; access to education; and access to health care for sick and pregnant children.

They also claimed to have held a meeting with the children and other stakeholders.

However, Henrietta Street children The Witness spoke to said they are not aware of this, adding that the only people who ever visit are church people who provide them with food every Sunday. “There has never been any government official visiting to talk to us,” said Zbonele Radebe.

This was confirmed by Thamsanqa Nzimande, who said he lives on the street because it is convenient for his job as a car guard. He said the people from various government departments usually drive by and none has ever bothered with them.

Nzimande said he wished they would help because he wants to move away from the streets. “All I want is a real job that could pay me some money so I can look after myself and my family.”

A businessman in the area confirmed that the government has offered no assistance to the children. He said numerous attempts to get government and municipal departments to help have proved fruitless. “I see the government cars driving past here every day and none of them ever do anything to assist.”

The source said he is at his wits’ end and he has no idea what to do. He said he fears the bureaucrats have failed the children.

“These children are stuck here every day of the week without any food and I fear that they might die of starvation.”

In late July, The Witness sent a list of questions to the Human Rights Directorate in the Premier’s office for an update on what has been done to honour the commitment to help the children,

However, no response was received by the time of going to press.

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