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DA says another Esidimeni tragedy is waiting to happen in KZN's children home

Morester Children's Home in KwaZulu-Natal were children were forcibly removed on Friday.
Morester Children's Home in KwaZulu-Natal were children were forcibly removed on Friday.
Image: Morester

The DA has asked KwaZulu-Natal premier Willies Mchunu to intervene urgently to prevent a repeat of the Life Esidimeni tragedy after 197 children were removed from three children's homes in Ladysmith and Newcastle and taken to various places in the province.

DA MP Alf Lees said officials from the KZN social development department, who were accompanied by armed policemen, arrived unannounced at Morester Children's Home in Ladysmith, Morester Children's Home in Newcastle and Home Meah Newcastle on Friday.

"According to reliable sources about the raid on Morester Ladysmith, the officials traumatised children - from a one-month-old baby to a 20-year-old - by storming in and removing them, some forcibly, as they tried to barricade themselves in," said Lees.

He said according to information, the officials weren't equipped with baby seats for the babies and didn't provide documentation as to where the kids were being taken to.

Lees said in addition, parents were not informed of the removal of the children and that they were removed without establishing what their individual medication or personal care requirements were.

"There can be no reason for the traumatic experience that these children have been put through and apparently continue to be exposed to," said Lees.

The DA has asked Mchunu and social development MEC Weziwe Thusi to provide reasons why the children were removed and whether it was legal to do so. "We hope that this is not a repeat of the Esidimeni catastrophe," said Lees.

Thusi yesterday ordered a high-level investigation into the allegations of widespread violations of the Children's Act at Morester Child and Youth Care Centre in Ladysmith after a preliminary investigation showed some staff members had a case to answer.

Thusi said in a statement that the violations included physical, verbal and emotional abuse as well as racism, including the use of the K-word against both African children and members of staff. The investigation would also be extended to the Newcastle site of the care centre, said Thusi.

The department confirmed that social workers had removed 146 children from the Ladysmith site, 33 from Morester Newcastle and 18 from Home Meah. The children have been placed in government-owned child and youth care centres and care centres funded by the state.

Thusi apologised to the affected families, saying they had now been informed and would also be taken to the facilities where the children were placed yesterday.

Thusi also revealed that Morester was funded by the state to the tune of over R5m to ensure the wellbeing of vulnerable children."

Lizette van Niekerk, director at the home, wasn't available to comment yesterday.

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