Vulnerable children at Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa Centre in Pretoria reportedly have no shoes or winter clothes.

Pretoria - Workers at the Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa Centre in Pretoria have pointed to the mismanagement of funds following the alleged disappearance of R7 million.
The money, which comes from the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) is meant to take care of the needs of orphans, abandoned, abused, and neglected children. According to the workers, some of the children have been going to school without shoes, and have been forced to share a packet of Marie Biscuits as their lunch.

“The procurement process here is very corrupt. They claim they bought clothes to the value of R300 000, which were stolen by us, which is not true. I can tell you that the children have no winter clothes or proper school uniforms,” said one employee, on condition of anonymity.

The workers said that earlier in the week they had a meeting where it was revealed that R7 million had gone missing.

Attempts to get comment from Sassa were unsuccessful as spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi neither responded to e-mails or text messages nor did he pick up calls. The staff also revealed that children don’t have clothes, the food they are forced to eat is not balanced or nutritional, and there are no toiletries.

“The bottles of small babies are washed with pine gel because we don’t have dishwashing liquid. We don’t have latex gloves for when we are changing the babies and when the nappies run out, we must go and borrow them from other smaller centres nearby,” said the source.

The safety of the children was also a talking point with many asking for the refurbishment of dilapidated buildings and the installation of perimeter fences around the centre.

“There is absolutely no safety and security here. They have deployed security at the main entrance but there is no fence at the back. Community members and criminals just enter as they want and come knocking at the doors,” said another source.

They further added that when companies are appointed to fix broken windows, doors and geysers, the repaired items only work for two weeks after the job is done and it’s back to square one.

The workers said they wanted transparency on the operations of the centre, something that has not been happening.

They said they are never consulted with regards to what is needed and what the kids require.

“We are never told how much is available or what it has been used for. We don’t even know who receives the money. Currently, we don’t have utensils, small babies are fed soup because they don’t have food. There is no daily meal roster because we have to make do with whatever we find on any particular day,” said the worker.

With regards to clothes, the workers said the centre looks for the cheapest, which don’t last. They said the powers that be buy shoes that only last for two weeks.

“Kids used to get clothes three times a year but that is no longer happening. The way things are so dysfunctional, kids no longer get clothes in December,” said the source.

The poor state of affairs was also brought to the attention of a Magistrate from the Soshanguve Magistrates Court on Thursday when one of the children was in court to testify. The workers said the child was wearing torn clothes and the parents complained to the Magistrate.

“The father said when he used to live with the child things were much better. He told the Magistrate that the child looked as though he was living on the streets. The Magistrate then subpoenaed the superintendent to explain,” said the employee.

Attempts to get comment from the Centre were unsuccessful.

The Sunday Independent