A child has alerted the Department of Social Development to further “significant evidence” of physical and sexual abuse at the Al-Noor Child and Youth Care Centre. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - A child has alerted the Department of Social Development to further “significant evidence” of physical and sexual abuse at the Al-Noor Child and Youth Care Centre.

Al-Noor has been in the spotlight following allegations of fraud and corruption by their manager Amina Okpara. She was arrested on June 14 for fraud and corruption by the Hawks and may face further charges including sexual offenses. 

Nine days later, the orphanage staff was handed an eviction notice by the City of Cape Town. They had to vacate the premises by 5pm on Friday. 

When the Weekend Argus visited them on Friday they had begun packing the children’s clothes. 

It is alleged that Okpara redirected donor funds meant for daily operations of the Centre into her personal bank account and used it for personal gain. She was arrested during a sting operation by the Hawks’ Serious Corruption Investigation team together with the Department of Social Development (DSD).  

At the time of the arrest, there were 35 children in the building none of whom any record existed on the premises. 

“Prior to the arrest, the centre was allegedly shut down on June 12, by the DSD. Consequently, 17 children were removed from the building after receiving allegations of sexual abuse, which are currently under investigation,” said Hawks spokesperson Captain Philani Nkwalase.

Since being removed, the children have been placed in other child and youth care centres, and are receiving the necessary social support, including assessment and counselling. 

Joshua Covenant Chigome spokesperson for MEC of Social Development Minister Sharna Fernandez confirmed that criminal charges have been laid with the SAPS against the alleged perpetrators. 

The Department said they would find alternative longer-term placement for these children.

 “There is significant evidence of physical and sexual abuse of children there which needs to be tested in a court. Criminal cases have been laid with the SAPS.  The Department of Social Development ordered the removal of 17 children from the Al Noor Child and Youth Care Centre in Woodstock after conducting a preliminary investigation into a number of serious complaints of alleged physical and sexual abuse at the centre,” Chigome added.

However, Phakamesa Gomomo, 19, who had come to pack up his belongings on Friday, told the Weekend Argus that there was a lot of good there.

“It felt good having a big family. I learned a lot here. I didn't know how to study before but I learned that here. I knew some of the kids here they were great and I will miss them.”

Okpara will appear at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court tomorrow for bail proceedings. 

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Weekend Argus