Social workers bring cops

Ntwaagae Seleka

Ntwaagae Seleka

More tears flowed when social workers accompanied by police forcefully removed 13 children from Siyakhula Orphanage in Orange Farm, Vaal, yesterday.

There were originally 30 children at Eunice Mabaso's orphanage, which is her house.

But social workers removed two of them in the first raid on Tuesday afternoon.

Fifteen of the remaining 28 escaped when social workers and police arrived. The other13 were herded into a minibus and taken away yesterday.

Social workers said before they left yesterday that they would return at night to raid the house for more children.

All those who escaped were boys with ages ranging from 12 to 16 years.

"I wish I could die today. They took away my loved ones. My home will never be the same again now that my children are gone," said a sobbing Mabaso, their foster mother.

"The government has destroyed me rather than uplift my orphanage. I have suffered for so long without any grant to raise these children."

The Gauteng social development department had said Mabaso's orphanage was unregistered and she was taking care of the children illegally.

Some of the children removed yesterday threatened to return to the streets rather than be taken away from Mabaso's care.

Others said they would escape from the alternative homes they were being taken to and return to Mabaso.

In 1995, Mabaso turned her four-roomed home into a "place of safety" for the destitute children and named it Siyakhula Orphanage.

Outside the house there are two separate dormitories for boys and girls. There are also three toilets and a bathroom that the children use.

The Gauteng government this week ordered her to surrender the children saying her orphanage was illegal.

Fred Mokoko, social development spokesman, said: "The children are being taken to a secure and registered facility. The department does not have a problem with Mabaso taking care of the children but only if she is legally registered."

When social workers removed two infants, aged three months and one year, on Tuesday and took them to an alternative registered home, Thabani Ngema, 9, ran away and returned after they had left.

Thabani told Sowetan that he would not leave Mabaso's sight because she was his "mother".

Mabaso said the youngest child she was taking care of was three months old and the oldest 21 years.

She said 10 volunteers from Orange Farm and a security guard helped her.

Some of the children in her care were abandoned at her gate and others were brought by relatives. Some were victims of sexual abuse.

Teenagers mostly proclaimed their "undying love" for Mabaso.

Mabaso said: "I could not sleep on Tuesday after my babies, Karabo and Nokuthula, were taken away from me.

"I miss them. They are my children and I want to give them the warmth they deserve."

She said that the department should advise her how to get registered because she feared the children would run away from the alternative orphanages to which they were allocated.

Earlier in the morning, 75-year-old Rose Makhubu delivered her grandchildren, aged one year and three years, to Mabaso after her daughter had left the two children with her.

Gauteng housing spokesman Victor Moreriane confirmed that the department was funding Siyakhula with R3,9million to build a shelter for the orphans.

Moreriane said the building will be completed by March.

He said the delay was caused by a legal dispute between the developer and the contractor who were appointed by Siyakhula Orphanage to put up the building.

The department intervened by cancelling the funding agreement and requested Siyakhula Trust appoint the department as the developer.