Authorities have removed 17 children from the Al Noor Child and Youth Care Centre in Woodstock after conducting a preliminary investigation into several serious complaints of alleged physical and sexual abuse at the centre. The provincial Department of Social Development said the children have been placed in other child and youth care centres and are receiving the necessary social support, including assessment and counselling. Criminal charges have also been laid with the SAPS against the alleged perpetrators.
“Due to the seriousness of the allegations, involving a number of children at the home, the department has deemed it necessary to remove and place the children in temporary alternative accommodation in terms of s173 of the Children’s Act to ensure their safety while criminal investigations are underway,” said department spokesperson Esther Lewis.
While the extent of the abuse is unclear at this stage, social workers are attempting to find alternative longer-term placement for these children. The department is also in the process of suspending the home’s registration pending the outcome of its investigations into the matter.
VOC News contacted the child care centre and spoke to one of the board members, Rashid Sibiya, who confirmed that the children had been removed. He said the children were between the ages of 8 and 16 years old. The centre’s board met on Monday to discuss the allegations and are awaiting a briefing from the department.
“We sent a letter to the department asking to be given more details on the allegations. We have no documents from the department so we cannot give our side of the story. Right now, we are getting many calls from media houses but cannot respond.”
Asked whether any children had come forward with allegations, he said he was not aware.
The orphanage has been plagued by controversy over the past few years, including previous allegations of abuse. In 2006, the social development department closed the facility following allegations that poor township children were recruited by the centre, forced to wear Islamic clothing and given Muslim names. At the time, social workers, who visited the centre, found that there was no freedom of religion and many children were not orphans.
In the same year, the orphanage was involved in an alleged social grants scam, involving the Western Cape Youth Commission. According to the Cape Argus, Nolundi Ebi, a former senior home affairs employee, allegedly “recruited” some children for Al Noor after telling their parents, grandparents or caregivers that the home was a Muslim school. She had also promised free schooling and accommodation. The home has also faced allegations of child prostitution and drug peddling.
Following a forensic report into the scam, the department of social services took a decision to close Al Noor as it was not registered in terms of the Child Care Act. However, it remained in operation until they were re-registered later. VOC