Children again removed from Al-Noor Centre
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Cape Town - The future of the Al-Noor Orphanage hangs in the balance after the Department of Social Development (DSD) removed a group of children attending after-school programmes there this week.
The department de-registered the facility in October 2019, a month after it had removed the 17 children who lived there.
Spokesperson for the MEC of Social Development Sharna Fernandez, Joshua Chigome said the department conducted a site visit on Thursday morning and identified 15 children attending a school holiday programme on the premises.
“These children are in process of being removed by DSD officials and ACVV Social Workers. These children are being assessed and the parents are being contacted to be informed that their children are attending activities at a unregistered facility,” said Chigome.
Asanda Mvumge, a worker at the orphanage, said: “We didn't know the kids were not allowed to sleep over. So their parents were called to find out if they were here legally. They were. So now we will put our programmes on hold until we have our NPO certificate.”
She said while the orphanage had been shut down, following the arrest of the owner Amina Okpara, the project side of it was still operational.
The Al-Noor Orphanage made headlines in 2019 when Okpara was arrested by the Hawks on June 15, 2019 for having allegedly stolen donations and funding provided to the orphanage.
She faced three counts of contravention of the Immigration Act and a charge of fraud. She has since been released on R5 000 bail.
It was a building filled with chatter from children but now lies cold and desolate.
In September 2019, facility manager Nkululeko Mboniswa was also arrested on two charges of assault, sexual assault and the sexual grooming of a child. He was released on bail.
The Weekend Argus visited the orphanage on Thursday to see overgrown dry cut grass in heaps, a building which looks a bit rundown and a gate barely holding on.
Mvumge said Okpara and Mboniswa had since resigned from their positions at the orphanage.
“We have been advised by the department that we can register as a NPO and operate our projects and after school activities for the kids. We have projects such as netball, sewing, soccer gardening and after-school programmes,” said Mvumge.
She added that they were no longer allowed to ask for donations from people that donated money for the orphanage. They now have asked several other organisations to help fund their programmes and activities.
Nomzukiso Maholwana, who is in charge of the projects that are currently taking place on the orphanage grounds, said that the rooms that once housed the 17 children were now being used by staff and their children.
They have about 45 people that partake in their programmes.
Maholwana said they were staying there but with Covid-19 regulations, they were split and some were now in Langa.
The ages of the people in the programmes are between 25 to 60 years old. After school programme includes kids as young as 3 to 17 and there are about 84 of them.
“Remember these children do not stay with us. We help them with homework and then they can partake in other activities if they want to. They go home after that. Some do not come though because of transport, some only come on a Saturday,” said Maholwana.
A former volunteer who is known to the Weekend Argus had in 2019 blown the whistle on alleged underhand dealings at the Al-Noor Orphanage Centre.
The overseas volunteer said the orphanage had allegedly being diverting food to Okpara’s house.
“She would take children from the orphanage to her house so the food would be taken there. The kids would not get anything. The food that would get back to the orphanage was like nothing. The children would not get enough food and were always hungry,” said the volunteer.
Around 30 loaves of bread would be delivered to the orphanage and all the white bread would allegedly go to staff and the brown bread would be left over. It would be fed to the pigeons, claimed the volunteer.
Another red flag for Okpara was when bed linen was delivered for the children but it was later found to have been sold when donors visited two days later.
“She was so deceiving. A food garden was started and people gave donations for it. However, the money was never invested in it. There was a time she tried to slip me some money to sweeten me up. I said no, another reason I left.”
Bongani Mxhulu, who is in charge of sports at the orphanage, said the kids, their ages range from 13 to 17, were all happy.
“I have about 13 of them on my soccer team and they come every morning from Langa and I teach them,” said Mxhulu.
He had been teaching the children for about a year.