The Centre for Child Law (CCL) has won round one in court against the Department of Social Development and the Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa centre in Tshwane.
The CCL approached the Pretoria High Court following an expose by The Sunday Independent of the shocking circumstances there.
Attorney Lithalethemba Stwayi said the court granted an order that seeks to better the lives of the children at the centre and others in similar places throughout the province.
Stwayi said the order stated that the department must develop an intersectoral policy and plan, as required by the Children’s Act, that will explain how residential care facilities will ensure that children have access to the particular services they need.
Employees at the Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa centre told The Sunday Independent that there was serious mismanagement of funds, and corruption in the procurement processes, following the alleged disappearance of R7million.
The money, which comes from Sassa, was meant to take care of the needs of the children living at the centre.
Other serious problems that were raised by employees, who requested anonymity, included a shortage of cleaning products and health and safety equipment.
“The bottles for small babies are washed with pine gel, because we don’t have dishwashing liquid.
“We don’t have latex gloves to change baby nappies - we have to borrow latex gloves from other smaller centres nearby,” said one employee.
The safety of the children at Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa Centre was also a concern, with more than one employee pointing out that the dilapidated buildings posed a danger to the kids living there, and that perimeter safety fences should be installed.
Following The Sunday Independent expose, MEC for Social Development Nandi Manyathula-Khoza visited the centre.
Mayathula-Khoza was taken on a tour of the facility to some of the key operational areas, with her first stop being the laundry section to check the condition of the clothes the children were given.
Laundry supervisor Violet Moloi informed the MEC that all the children’s clothing was clean and that they never kept torn garments.
Mayathula-Khoza said she was “half happy” that issues such as infrastructure were being looked into, but was concerned about the security.
“I am happy that some of the things are being looked into now. But a lot still needs to be done to ensure the safety of these children,” she said.
But workers once again hit out at the management of the centre, accusing those in charge of only showing the MEC the areas that are functional.
“When HODs and others come for investigations, our management takes them only to places where there’s no disaster.
“Healthy food, maintenance, and kids’ lunch boxes are still a challenge,” said one employee.
The employee added that children have been given new school uniforms since the expose was published by The Sunday Independent.
Stwayi said the new policy and plan must also set out how basic education and appropriate health care services will be provided to the children, as well as how support for families and respite care will be provided so that children are not unnecessarily removed from their family environment.
“The order also sets out interim arrangements that are to be put in place by the Department while the policy and plan are being developed,” Stwayi explained.
“Also in terms of this order, the department, through a committee established by them, must ensure that children with behavioural difficulties who are brought to their attention, are provided with suitable alternative care if necessary,” she continued.
These vulnerable children must have access to quality education; receive appropriate health care services and their families should be provided with necessary and suitable support, Stwayi concluded.