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Durban - An Umlazi woman arrested for allegedly assaulting her disabled niece with a pipe and scalding her with boiling water has been released on a warning.
The 54-year-old woman, who appeared in the Umlazi Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, is facing two counts of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. The incidents were alleged to have taken place on August 2, provincial police spokesman Colonel Vincent Mdunge said on Wednesday.
The victim, a 17-year-old Grade 8 pupil, was taken to a place of safety.
She only has one hand as a result of a deformity at birth.
Social workers rescued the teenager from her aunt’s home on Monday after a tip-off, said the spokeswoman for the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Social Welfare, Ncumisa Fandesi.
The teen had burn wounds on her right thigh and arm and her right eye was closed, allegedly from being beaten with a plastic pipe, she said.
“The girl was forced to eat rotten food and sleep outside,” Fandesi said, adding that she had moved in with her aunt after her mother and grandmother died.
When the Daily News went to the house on Wednesday, the aunt had just returned from the court.
“I am still in shock that I spent two nights behind bars and I am really not in the right frame of mind at all,” she said.
Visibly stressed, she confirmed that her niece had been taken away from her, but would not get into details.
“I have spoken to police and social workers have also spoken to me.
“I have given them my statement,” she said.
The woman said she had lots of laundry to do before she could talk to reporters.
“Maybe once I finish this washing, my head will be in a better space.”
A neighbour said she was shocked to learn of the arrest.
She said that as far as she knew, the teen was not allowed outside the house or to visit friends, unless she was going to school.
“I must admit that I had not seen her for a while until a few days ago when she walked past in a rush. She was in her school uniform,” she said, explaining that this seemed odd because it was after 3pm and usually the teen was already indoors by that time.
Social Development MEC Weziwe Thusi said it was sad that the alleged assaults had taken place “under people’s noses”.
“Yet it took so long for someone to call for help,” she said. “Nobody deserves to live like this girl did and we hope that the police will do their work and ensure that the person responsible for the abuse faces the full might of the law.”
Thusi said she hoped this case would remind people that they had a duty to protect children. She called on communities to work closer with social workers and police to report incidents of child abuse.
Mdunge said the case had been adjourned for further investigation and that the woman was expected to appear in court again on August 20.