'I am fearing for my life'

2017-06-04 06:01

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1 in 3 SA children experience abuse - social development department

2017-05-30 13:55

The Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, launched the annual Child Protection Week campaign on May 26, 2017. WATCH

Nico Badenhorst and Lenette Mary Maree remember the day Harber’s organisation took away their two-week-old daughter about two years ago.

Badenhorst, 29, and Maree, 40, said Harber took the child on November 28 2015 from a woman they had hired to look after her at night because they “did not have electricity”.

The couple wasn’t at home at the time.

“We were going through a tough time like any other family does at some point in life,” Badenhorst said.

“Lenette and I were living in one small room with no electricity and I did not want my child to grow up in that hostile environment; hence, there was a lady who took care of her at night.

Over the past two years, Henry Harber – who runs a charity organisation called Wild Wild Guardians in Springs, 50km east of Johannesburg – has allegedly taken about 140 children away from their parents to “places of safety” – seemingly without parental consent.

The organisation is, according to the Gauteng department of social development, not registered as a child-protection organisation and not “allowed to move children”.

“There are many poor families, particularly in South Africa’s townships and rural areas, but you never see parents being separated from their children simply because they are struggling financially,” he said.

A tearful Maree refrained from having her picture taken, saying she was being “viciously threatened by someone”.

She is too afraid to mention the person’s name and said she feared for her life.

She said that she was on the verge of unwillingly signing her baby off to someone else on May 31.

Badenhorst said the process to remove the child was done in one day without any social worker present.

“The court process took less than 24 hours and Harber and his team never gave us a chance to work anything out.

“We both have extended family that could have taken custody of our daughter,” he said.

“We were accused of being drug addicts, but no tests were done to confirm that,” said Badenhorst.

Their daughter is now in the custody of a local lawyer and they are allowed to see her for an hour on Sundays.

“Do you know how miserable I feel every night when I have to sleep?” Maree said.

The couple said they had tried to lay charges against Harber at the local police station, but they hit a brick wall. 

Harber has a court order against them that forbids them from discussing the matter with the media.

However, they decided to take a risk and tell City Press their story.

Read more on:    youth

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