Community calls for help for disabled teenager

The community of Island, in Makhaza, are concerned about a disabled boy who they say is being neglected.

A Khayelitsha couple is facing the wrath of the community who are accusing them of neglecting their 14-year-old disabled son.

The angry community members said the parents should face charged of gross child neglect after cleaners found the teenager locked inside a shack with no food or water in the area of Island in Makhaza on Tuesday morning.

According to the street cleaners, they heard a child crying inside the home while they were on duty. The cleaners then called the street committee members and the neighbours who later called police.

When community members arrived, they found no one else on the property. After several attempts to contact parents, the residents forced their way into the shack.

They were also informed by the neighbours that it was not the first time the boy had been locked inside with no food and water. The neighbours informed the concerned residents to call the police or social workers. But the police refused to come after they were told that the residents had already broken into the shack.

After forcing themselves in, the neighbours brought the boy something to eat and changed his nappy.

“It was not the first time that this happened. We reported the matter to the social workers before but nothing happened. When the parents are intoxicated they always leave him alone, especially during pay days or social grant days. They have turns as to who uses the card this month or next month,” said a neighbour.

The community’s pressing concern is fires spreading in the informal settlement so they fear for the teenager’s safety after a two-month-old baby died recently in a shack fire in the same area.

“He is deprived of not only human rights but also adequate hygienic care. You can see he is dirty and wearing dirty clothes. That is not how you bring up your child. We want the social workers to take him. Pity we informed them last year but we are shocked he is still here. This boy was big but look at him now, thin,” said one.

When Vukani arrived at the home of the boy, he was lying on the floor on a foam mattress covered with a red blanket. The shack’s floors are made of tiles. While the community members were busy, the father came home and was defensive. He said he had only left him for a few hours.

“I went to look for his mother to come back home because she did not sleep at home last night. I came and found him alone, that is why I had to go look for his mother. But I gave him food,” he told the angry community members. He pleaded with them not to take them to the social workers.

When asked by Vukani, would he consider handing over his son to the social workers, he said no.

“You can call your social workers to come but I have my own social workers,” he said.

Responding to Vukani, Monique Mortlock-Malgas, spokesperson to Sharna Fernandez, MEC for Social Development, said her department will investigate the matter.

“One of the Western Cape Department of Social Development’s main priorities is the protection of children. In a case of suspected child abuse, DSD officials will investigate and assess the needs of the child, which may include removing the child and placing them in a place of safety according to the Children’s Act.”

She added that should anyone wish to report a case of child abuse or neglect, they can visit their nearest DSD office, or call the DSD toll-free number 0800 220 250.

The community, helped by cleaners, converged at the home of a 14-year-old boy who residents claim is constantly locked up alone at home.
The teenager’s wheelchair.