28 kids taken from ‘poison’ orphanage
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Pretoria - Authorities have closed down the Mamelodi East orphanage which is under investigation for possible child poisoning.
Twenty-eight children were removed from the orphanage and placed in the nearby SOS Children’s Village.
Officials from the Department of Social Development went into the Malerato Centre for Hope after dusk on Monday, where they established that it operated too many facilities. They closed it down to allow the owner time to work with them in focusing on the core projects she would like to run.
“We went in there and found that she was unregistered to run the orphanage, as well as an early childhood development centre, nor could she legally run a child and youth care centre,” the head of department Shoki Tshabalala said.
She said the centre was registered to provide foster care for six children. “But we found 28 children, some of them infants, and this did not make sense because children who are at a crèche are not meant to spend the night there.”
The orphanage, run by Dikeledi Jacobs, is home to 46 orphaned and vulnerable children. People from the community around the centre take their children to the crèche during the day. Last on Thursday evening, 16 of the children at the crèche were treated for severe diarrhoea and vomiting, after ingesting something with their lunch.
The centre became the subject of an investigation by the departments of Health and Social Development, and the City of Tshwane.
On Friday, police arrested a 35-year-old worker from the home, and charged her with assault with intention to cause grievous bodily harm. She was due to appear in the Mamelodi Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday but her case was not enrolled because there wasn’t enough evidence for the prosecution to go on.
She was released pending further investigations and medical test results on the children. Tshabalala said their raid on the home had nothing to do with the recent publicity. “We have a responsibility to ensure that children are placed in legally sound centres and homes,” she said.
Jacobs was registered to live with only the six children she fostered, but she was carrying out too many activities, Tshabalala said.
Among activities at the facility is a tuck shop, a bakery, a crèche and a recruitment agency. She said they wanted to work with Jacobs, and guide her. The department would also help her identify the areas she was passionate about, for which they would provide training.
On Tuesday, the SOS Children’s Village’s corporate fundraiser, Lizo Tom, said they were ready to provide any assistance to the children, especially because they came from the community around them.
He said: “Our main priority is children.”