Durban - A community centre headed by rape survivor Jessica Foord could close its doors indefinitely after robbers held up a security guard, ripped open the panels of the container offices and stole everything from a couch to the welcome mat.
The Jes Foord Foundation (JFF) Multi-Purpose Community Centre in Mariannhill, which assists with the counselling of rape survivors and people with drug and alcohol addictions, was broken into at midnight on Saturday. Foord posted on the JFF Facebook page that most of the items had beenrecovered, although they were badly damaged. Three people were arrested.
Foord said eight men had cut a hole in the perimeter fencing and attacked the night duty guard with a crowbar. The day shift guard found his injured colleague in the guard hut and alerted police.
“The men tied the guard’s hands and legs, covered him with wooden pallets and left him in the hut. One of the men had a gun,” Foord posted.
Michelle Smith, spokeswoman for the foundation, said she was contacted by Blue Security at 4.30am on Sunday. She said she felt heartsore when she saw the damage.
The centre also offers child play therapy for behavioural or emotional problems, as well as HIV/Aids testing and counselling. It opened in March and has two counselling rooms, a reception area, a boardroom and child therapy room.
“The (robbers) cut a portion of the panels from each room and pulled the piece upwards. They crawled inside and ransacked the offices. The doors were not broken,” Smith said.
“Luckily, we do not keep computers or deal with cash on the premises
The robbers placed a carpet on the ground outside, loaded some of the stuff on to it, and slid it down the embankment and through the hole they cut in the fence. They took the couch, a bar fridge, microwave, chairs, tea, coffee, a welcome mat and even a teddy bear named George.
Smith said the day shift guard was on his way to work when he saw men carrying couches on a road nearby.
“We have to stop work at the centre. We cannot subject rape survivors to these conditions. Patient confidentiality is important,” she said.
“Each office container costs in the region of R100 000.
“We have put a lot of passion, our lives and love into making this centre a success. It is a huge blow.”
Foord became a heroine to many when she established the foundation following her traumatic rape by four men. The foundation relies on donations to bring hope to hundreds of people going through the harrowing aftermath of rape.
It provides counselling services for the community of Mariannridge and nine other communities.
Blue Security confirmed on Sunday that its reaction officers and police had arrested three people.
Managing director Henk van Bemmelen commended the officers for their bravery.
“Our officers went beyond the call of duty to assist the Mariannhill police in tracking down and arresting all three alleged robbers.”
Van Bemmelen said it was “despicable” that criminals would target an organisation that was working selflessly to assist victims of crime.