33 parents in court for dumping kids at pastor’s ‘illegal’ shelter

2013-05-07 14:31

Thirty-three parents – mostly well-dressed women with fancy hairstyles – appeared in court today on charges that they had neglected their minor children by dumping them at an illegal shelter.

They are the parents of 62 children rescued from an illegal boarding house, alleged to have been operated as a religious cult in Umzimkhulu.

The 33 parents were added to the list of accused in the Umzimkhulu Magistrates’ Court this morning. They face charges of abuse and deliberate neglect, alongside Ndumiso Jali (58) and Siphiwo Mancoba (68).

Jali is a pastor of the Crusaders Church and the parents are believed to be professionals and members of his church.

The shelter was raided after officials of the department of social development in the province received a tip-off from members of the community who were concerned that the children were not going to school.

Strange symbols, makeshift altars, red paint markings and doomsday scripture verses plastered on the walls were some of the discoveries during the raid.

It took over half an hour for court orderlies to arrange all 35 accused in the order of their appearance this morning.

The parents – all mothers, except one – said they would be handling their own defence, as would Jali and Mancoba.

They were not asked to plead.

Jali and Mancoba were released on R1 000 bail each in March.

According to the charge sheet, some of the rescued children are as young as three years.

The eldest child is 15.

Children from Nyanga in Cape Town, Lesotho, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg and Krugersdorp were among those rescued.

Weziwe Thusi, KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Social Development, said the children were progressing well in the four places of safety they had been placed in.

Initially, the children were uncooperative and refused to talk. They referred to Jali as their “master”.

“When you tried to talk to them, they used to cover their ears,” Thusi told protesters at court.

It is believed the children had never been to school.

Thusi said the younger children were already in school. Plans were in place to integrate the older kids into the system as well, she said.

Said Thusi: “I would like to appeal to you women to really pray. What has happened here is something we’ve never seen, where women leave the care of their children to men.”

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