Johannesburg - Children who are deprived of normal social interactions sometimes have sex with their siblings, who they see as the only outlet of their social needs.
Relations between them can be very distorted, and if their parents are out of touch with reality, there is no guidance for children on how to behave properly.
This was the take of Childline’s Joan van Niekerk on allegations that an incestuous relationship developed between siblings who were locked in their tiny room at Nobuhle hostel in Alexandra by their parents.
The couple’s four children - a 25-year-old man believed to be mentally unstable, an 18-year-old girl and two boys aged 11 and 9 - were hardly ever seen by neighbours and were not going to school.
Neighbours said that they once saw the teenage girl pregnant and walking outside with her mother. No one knows what happened to the baby.
The mother denies allegations that her daughter was ever pregnant.
Van Niekerk said, even in cases where it had been proved that an incestuous relationship occurred between isolated siblings, it would be inappropriate to deal with those cases as crimes. “They need to be looked at through a mental health viewpoint,” she said.
The man allegedly believed that his relatives - with whom he had a row - might kidnap and even kill the children, so he locked them up at home. Van Niekerk said it was clear the parents were out of touch with reality as they truly believed they were doing the best for their children.
She said it was likely that the parents were mentally ill and needed mental observation because that was “clearly not the behaviour of a rational person”.
A neighbour who helped free the children said they were alone in the house again this week when their mother went out. In the time she was gone, they never went out, he said. “When we took them out, we wanted them to be free and play with other children, and that’s not happening,” he said.
Dr Willie Strydom, the head of Rainbows for All Children, said the key issue was that the children had skipped a lot of phases in their lives while being kept as “prisoners”. Rehabilitation for these children would take a long time. “The only way to help the children is through trial and error,” he said.
Social workers were sent to the children’s home this week, and Dr Sello Mokoena of the Social Development Department awaits a report on the situation.