Kids not back at care facility accused of racism, abuse despite court order
The Christian Social Services (CSS) Association which oversees Morester children's homes in Newcastle and Ladysmith are headed back to court on Friday for a second legal battle with the KwaZulu-Natal department of social development.
On Wednesday, CSS was granted an interim order to have the 197 children removed from three homes under their care by officials from the KwaZulu-Natal social development department and policemen.
The department confirmed that social workers had removed 146 children from the Ladysmith site, 33 from Morester Newcastle and 18 from Home Meah in Newcastle on February 15 and 16. The children were placed in government-owned child and youth care centres as well as care centres funded by the state.
KwaZulu-Natal MEC Weziwe Thusi said in a statement that the children had been removed following allegations of physical, verbal and emotional abuse as well as racism, including the use of the offensive K-word against both African children and members of staff.
She ordered a high-level investigation into the allegations of widespread violations of the Children's Act at the Morester Child and Youth Care Centre in Ladysmith after a preliminary investigation showed some staff members had a case to answer.
On Wednesday afternoon, Judge Rishi Seegobin ordered that the department return the children removed from the homes within "36 hours of the granting of this order" and preventing the department from removing them again.
Seegobin also made an interim order that the department should investigate the allegations of abuse and complaints, taking into account the views of the parents of the children and their best interests. The results of the investigation and recommendations, he ruled, was to be reported in writing to the court by March 18.
He also ordered the CSS to co-operate fully with the investigation.
However CSS chief executive Rev Gerhard Botha said on Friday that the children had not been returned.
"We expected them to be returned to us on Thursday. The department had, according to the ruling, until 3.30am on Friday morning to comply, but this was not done.
"We believe that their action is a violation of the order and they can be held in contempt of court. We are returning to court in this regard."
Botha said they were extremely concerned because they were aware that the children were very traumatised.
Department spokesperson Ncumisa Ndelu said the organisation was well within their right to return to court. She said the department was being advised by their legal team in this matter.