NGO suspends programme in SA after robbery at children’s home

2016-11-21 10:48
An image posted on Facebook of Lisa Ashton's emergency passport. (Facebook via Netwerk24)

An image posted on Facebook of Lisa Ashton's emergency passport. (Facebook via Netwerk24)

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Johannesburg - A British non-profit organisation (NPO) is so concerned about safety in Johannesburg that it has decided to, as a temporary measure, stop sending volunteers to South Africa.

This follows an armed robbery on Friday at the iLamula House children’s home in Ennerdale.

Seven armed men raided the orphanage, Netwerk24 reported.

The children’s home is a project of the UK-based Winnie Mabaso Foundation, which was established in 2004 to care for especially vulnerable and abused orphans.

Lisa Ashton, the British founder of the Winnie Mabaso Foundation, was on a six-week visit to the country when the attack took place. Ashton and two of the home's employees were there when the robbers struck.

The robbers stole credit cards, money and all their documents. These included their IDs, driver’s licences and, in Ashton’s case, her passport.

Rollercoaster of emotions

In a post on the Winnie Mabaso Foundation's Facebook page, Ashton described her stay in South Africa as a rollercoaster of emotions.

"It is with great regret that I have to share this horrible news with you," wrote Ashton. "It was a very sad way in which to end such a wonderful visit."

No one was injured and none of the children had seen the attack, she said. However, she had gotten the fright of her life.

"We already have strict security measures and we could not have done much more to prevent the attack," Ashton wrote.

The NGO has decided to temporarily suspend its volunteer programme, she added. A meeting of the NGO's trustees will be held to decide on the way forward.

Ashton said the British High Commissioner to South Africa helped her get accommodation on Friday and provided her with emergency travel documents.

She added that the TLC orphanage, which is about 15 minutes from iLamula and is run by a friend of hers, was also targeted by robbers last week.

Possible syndicate

"I decided to share this story with you to spread the word among other children's facilities and NGOs in Johannesburg so that they must be on their guard.

"I do not want this to happen to anyone else."

Ashton said she wondered if there might be a syndicate in Johannesburg targeting such organisations in the run-up to Christmas.

"My involvement in the Winnie Mabaso Foundation continues," Ashton promised.

"We will not allow this incident to affect our work in South Africa, although changes inevitably have to be made to ensure the safety of our staff and children."

Isabel Potgieter, spokesperson for the British High Commission in Pretoria, said on Sunday she could not comment on specific consular matters, but did confirm that the High Commission at the weekend helped a British citizen who was involved in an incident.

Sergeant Vincent Mashiteng, a police spokesperson, confirmed that the police were investigating a case of armed robbery.

He said the incident happened outside the premises of the children’s home. Ashton was possibly followed and confronted by two armed men when she stopped at the home.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  children  |  crime

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