Cape Town - On a drizzly winter’s day last week, an eight-month-old baby boy, wearing just a nappy and a vest, was found alone in St Edward Street in an informal settlement called Hillview, near Lavender Hill.
Police took him to the home of Lucinda Evans who runs an NGO, Philisa Abafazi Bethu (Heal our Women) from her dining room in Lavender Hill.
The baby was filthy and starving, and gulped down porridge and rooibos tea.
After his 32-year-old mother had been traced, Evans accompanied social workers to her home, where a four-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son were also removed and taken to a place of safety.
“It was sad when we walked into the shack. We found a mother not coping. She had even resorted to cutting up pieces of material to try to make nappies.”
Evans said there was a lack of protection services in areas like Hillview. She and her volunteers have been running programmes over the holidays and had found high levels of neglect.
She said children as young as four and five were being sent to the spaza shop after dark to buy cigarettes, and during load shedding, when it was pitch dark, they played outside.
“They told us that on Allpay (pension) day their parents buy beers and they get 50c chips.” On Wednesday, the team was at Ashleigh and Constitution Court in Lavender Hill, both areas notorious for gun violence and child neglect.
Evans said people were often antagonistic when first confronted.
“But when we explain what we want to do, then there is an understanding.”
She hopes to expand her NGO’s work but currently receives no funding.
Even just to feed the children during the holiday programme, Evans had to call in favours from friends.
“We keep going by grace and faith. I took out a bond on my house just to keep things going.”
And not everybody appreciates her efforts.
Three years ago, Evans intervened in a rape case, which resulted in a gangster putting a price on her head.
But instead of backing off, she climbed into her car and went to his house.
“I said if you want to kill me, give me the money and do it. He was quite shocked.”
Sihle Ngobese, spokesperson for Albert Fritz, Minister of Social Development, said the department had been made aware of the abandoned baby case late in the evening and its after-hours social workers had rendered assistance to the children by conducting an assessment and had them placed in a safe environment with a relative.
“The matter is currently under police investigation, as an allegation of domestic violence has been levelled against the children’s father by the mother, who alleges she was forced to flee and seemingly abandon the children.”
They would continue to monitor the case through their NGO partners working in the area.