Msholozi - The distraught owner of the Mpumalanga Christian Centre, Esther Nkosi, says she would rather die than close the centre that caters for over 80 homeless orphans.
This was after the Mpumalanga Social Development Department paid the centre, also known as Esther's Safe Haven, a visit and declared it unsuitable as a youth care facility.
"I will not allow the department to close the centre. I'd rather be jailed for this," vowed Esther. She said she was consulting with the SA Human Rights Commission about the issue.
She founded the centre in Msholozi, on the outskirts of White River, in 2014. Since then, it had sheltered children from infancy to 18 years.
The department discovered during its visit last week that the centre was not registered. The structure was dilapidated and in need of renovation.
"Mpumalanga Christian Centre is not registered with the department of social development in terms of the Children's Act as a child and youth care centre," spokesperson Ronnie Masilela said.
"According to the environmental health practitioner's report, which is a requirement for registration, the centre was not suitable to operate as a child and youth care facility."
Nkosi had tried many times to register the centre, but was told it was not compliant.
Masilela said that investigations into children's circumstances at the centre had led to some children being reunited with their families, and others placed in registered facilities.
Mpumalanga Social Development MEC Busisiwe Shiba visited the centre last Wednesday. She said she was disturbed by the conditions in which children were housed.
She ordered that food be delivered to the centre the same day. She instructed that, in the interests of compliance with the Children's Act, children be removed to suitable centres, starting the next day.
She said the centre would get help to ensure it complied with the law, before it was allowed to take in any more children.