Judge rules crèche owner must sue indicted ‘defamer’ by next month

2015-11-26 10:15

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Pietermaritzburg - The high court has given the owner of Hayfields Pre-School Day Care crèche until December 18 to sue a former employee she alleges spread false allegations about treatment of children at her crèche.

Franca Mazzei recently obtained an interim high court interdict against ex-employee Sian Siebert, restraining her from persisting with or making “defamatory remarks” about Mazzei or her school.

According to the court papers Mazzei is planning to sue Siebert for damages for allegedly “false, highly objectionable, insulting and defamatory remarks”.

Mazzei alleges that Siebert is a “disgruntled former employee” seeking revenge over her dismissal on October 1.

She said Siebert left abruptly, taking with her a list of contact details of the parents of children at the school.

The same day a father arrived and said he was removing his child from the school after receiving “disturbing news”.

This incident was followed by a Weekend Witness newspaper article about alleged abuse at a crèche, even though the school was not named.

“No child or toddler at our school, in eight years of its existence, has ever been placed in a cupboard or treated with anything other than the love and care befitting of the vulnerable little people they are,” said Mazzei.

“I care deeply for each of the children entrusted to me,” she said.

Mazzei said she “summarily dismissed” Siebert on October 1 after Siebert allegedly “attacked” her in a vulgar manner. They had argued because she didn’t pay Siebert for days she wasn’t at work.

Mazzei alleged it was the fourth time Siebert became angry and verbally abused her.

Mazzei said she was not trying to deny Siebert her “day in court” and understood that the law had to take its course. She accepted she could not stand in the way of a criminal investigation against her, even though in her view it was “utterly vexatious”.

In a replying affidavit Siebert denies the allegations made against her by Mazzei. She admits she went to the SAPS Child Protection Unit on October 2 to report events she alleges she observed at the school but said she did so for the “protection of the children” and because she felt it was her duty “not because I am a disgruntled employee”.

She alleges that she saw Mazzei smack children at the crèche and had often intervened and told her she could not treat the children that way. She also alleged Mazzei’s partner pulled some children’s ears.

She was concerned that after she left that children could be harmed.

Siebert admitted having sent an SMS to parents of the crèche informing them they could contact the Child Protection Unit for information about the case at the crèche, but said if she had ulterior motives she would not have signed her name.

She denied that she spoke to any newspaper about alleged abuse at the school. “I did not tell any person that a child was locked in a closet or that children were suffocated,” she added.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  court

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