Boys escape from France ‘shelter’

2011-09-05 00:00

THE ordeal of a mother from Copesville ended when she was reunited with her son after he had been missing for three weeks. But her elation was short-lived when the eight-year-old boy began to tell of his abduction and abuse in a dubious “shelter” for children.

The eight-year-old, who cannot be named to protect his identity, went missing on July 31 on his way to a mosque in Copesville.

He said he was walking with a friend when he was abducted by the friend’s uncle. His feet and hands were bound and he was tossed into a car with four men.

The men bought him a “yoghurt and a CD” and left him on a street corner in Raisethorpe. Then he was picked up in a small white truck and taken to a “shelter” in France in greater Edendale.

The boy said that at the centre, which cannot be named at this stage, he was locked up most of the time in a bedroom with other children.

He said they were fed raw food and mouldy bread. They were at times beaten and told to clean the yard.

Two weeks ago, he said, he found a key that opened the front door and escaped with a 13-year-old.

The older boy said he was sent to the centre to attend school there.

The Witness learnt that the centre provides no schooling for the children who live there.

The boy claimed that they were malnourished and any donations given to the centre were sold and the children would get nothing. The centre would collect streetchildren when donors were due to come, but afterwards the children were sent away.

The mother of the eight-year-old said her son and his companion were found by a member of the family as they walked home.

The boy was so traumatised he would not speak for a week.

The Copesville family claims the police took did not follow up all the leads.

The Witness is in possession of a recording in which the friend of the eight-year-old, who went to mosque with him on the day he disappeared, says his uncle abducted the boy.

The owner of the centre claimed she does not know about the eight-year-old.

She said children come to the centre on their own accord or are brought there by their parents. She said she feeds and clothes them. She denied the children’s allegations.

However, the owner’s son said he recalls seeing the little boy at the centre for a short time.

The centre is still home to the older brother of the 13-year-old, who did not want to comment on the practices at the centre.

The centre has been under investigation since March last year over allegations of abduction brought by the KZN Social Development Department because it has no licence to house the children.

A spokesperson for Social Development MEC Meshack Radebe, Mandla Ngema, said they could not comment on the allegations because the department has already taken the centre to court over its legitimacy to operate. Ngema said Radebe was briefed on the latest revelations and is angered by them. He said the department will look into the claims.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Joey Jeevan said a case of child stealing has been opened. “Arrests are imminent,” she said.

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