200 taken from homes

2019-02-18 10:48
Children salvaging some of their belongings during the alleged ‘forced removals’ at one of the children’s homes under the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Social Services (CSS).

Children salvaging some of their belongings during the alleged ‘forced removals’ at one of the children’s homes under the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Social Services (CSS). (Newcastle Adviser)

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The management of KwaZulu-Natal Christian Social Services (CSS) will be taking legal steps after 200 children from three children’s homes under their control were removed “forcefully and suddenly” by the Department of Social Development at the weekend.

Officials from the Department of Social Development showed up at Môrester Lady­smith, Môrester Newcastle and House Meah on Friday and Saturday and removed all the children from these homes.

The children range from babies to 18-year-olds.

CSS claims that no reasons were given for this drastic measure.

It was reportedly alleged that abuse of children was taking place at one of the homes.

DA MP Alf Lees, who is the constituency head in Uthukela, has asked the KZN MEC for Social Development, Weziwe Thusi, to intervene urgently to “prevent a KZN Esidimeni catastrophe in Northern KZN”.

Lees said they were informed by reliable sources within the homes that the police, who arrived unannounced at the homes, were armed with “automatic weapons”.

“No warrants or other documentation was produced by the officials that authorised their action.

“The children [were] transported to towns all over KZN, including Richards Bay, Margate, Port Shepstone, Newcastle, and Victory Haven in Lady­smith. The children were traumatised and many were crying and screaming in fear,” he said.

Lees said they were also informed that nine children were on the streets in Durban as the home at which they were dumped had no room for them.

“A group of 10 children [were] locked in a room with one small window somewhere and they had to sleep on concrete benches ... Some have not been fed since they were dumped. Some children have already run away from the places that they were dumped at and returned to the Ladysmith Môrester home,” said Lees.

Reverend Gerhard Botha, CEO of CSS, said verbal and written objections from CSS’s lawyers and numerous requests to first discuss the matter fell on deaf ears.

He said the Department of Social Development never communicated with the CSS or the management of any of the three homes on this matter.

“We were never informed of the alleged problem nor of the decision to remove the children from the homes. None of the children’s parents or guardians were informed that the children will be relocated or where they will be relocated to.

“According to rumours the department received anonymous complaints about the homes, but we cannot know this for sure since the department has until now refused to discuss the matter with the CSS management,” said Botha.

He said if there were indeed complaints, they were more than willing to give their full co-operation in a thorough investigation alongside the department and rectify any problems as guided by the department.

Botha added that some of the children were even whisked away without their medication being packed, placing these children’s health in jeopardy.

“Can you imagine the fear and uncertainty of these children when people unknown to them showed up, forced them out of their beds and into vehicles without them knowing where they are going or why?”

He said CSS offered alternatives to the children being removed such as removing the personnel and replacing them with employees from the department or having officials from the department oversee all the operations in the three houses until the matter can be discussed and there can be decided on a suitable course of action.

The CSS will lodge an urgent application with the high court in Pietermaritzburg today to have the children returned to the homes.

Spokesperson for the Department of Social Development Ncumisa Ndelu confirmed the children were removed but said the department would not comment on the other allegations yesterday and would issue a comprehensive statement on Monday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  children's home
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