Probe into sexual abuse at mental health facility

DURBAN - Management of the Durban and Coastal Mental Health Society has expressed concern over allegations of sexual abuse and negligence that were leveled against it's employees.

The NGO's executive director, Gita Harie, said they were investigating the allegations and confirmed that a patient had died at one of their facilities last year. 

The revelation came after the DA’s Imran Keeka paid an unannounced visit to the organisation, which has seven premises around Durban and helps more than 200 people mental and physical disabilities.

A staff member who asked not to be named, said staff members allegedly had sex with patients and assaulted them. The staffer said patients also acted as security guards and were being exploited and paid as little as R300 per month for various activities.

“As an organisation we are extremely disappointed that the reputation of our NGO DMCH which is undertaking outstanding services, is being potentially harmed or damaged by the media coverage we have received,” Harie said.

Keeka, the DA's spokesperson on health, said he found the allegations very concerning. 

"We also call on KZN’s Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo to take immediate steps and to visit this facility and so that he too can provide the necessary monitoring and support. Failure to do so may lead to another Esidemeni this time on his watch," Keeka said. 

He also called on management of the facility to remain transparent, while Dhlomo said he was surprised that Keeka was apparently sensationalising the matter. 

"We are doing everything to uphold the human rights of our mental health users, but the DA continues to peddle misinformation which results in tarnishing the images of hardworking organizations and its personnel," said Dhlomo.

Dhlomo said there had been investigations into alleged sexual abuse and that the matter was closed due to insufficient evidence. He said sexual abuse matters had been investigated by SAPS and Commission for Gender Equality. 

The KZN Department of Social Development said they were shocked by the allegations and confirmed they would be investigating them. MEC Weziwe Thusi said if the allegations were true it would be a sad day.

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