Claims of rape, beatings rock church-run centre for the disabled
Abuse by staff and sex among residents, some of whom are HIV-positive, have triggered an investigation
A KwaZulu-Natal healthcare facility for the physically and mentally disabled has been rocked by allegations of sexual and physical abuse, as well as financial mismanagement.
Police are investigating the alleged rape of a mentally disabled woman by another mentally disabled resident, while the centre’s board of directors is investigating allegations that a caregiver beat patients. An investigation into financial mismanagement is also under way.
The 32-year-old woman was allegedly raped by a 52-year-old man in July at the Zisize Centre for the Disabled, a non-profit organisation run by the Dutch Reformed Church. The centre, which accommodates 60 residents, is in Dingaanstat, near Ulundi.
Police spokeswoman Colonel Thembeka Mbele confirmed that a case of rape was opened at the Babanango police station and was being investigated by the Ulundi Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit.
Zisize director Samukelisiwe Moloi confirmed she was aware of the rape allegation.
Claims of sexual activity among residents at the healthcare facility by residents and family members prompted an oversight visit by the DA to the centre in September to investigate various allegations of abuse, including that residents were engaging in unprotected sex, despite some of them being HIV-positive.
Other allegations included caregivers at the facility beating residents, which is the subject of an investigation by its board of directors.
DA KwaZulu-Natal member of the provincial legislature Sharon Chetty subsequently reported the allegations to provincial social development MEC Weziwe Thusi and the SA Human Rights Commission. Both promised to investigate.
Moloi admitted during an interview with Times Select after the DA visit that there were allegations of residents engaging in sexual activities.
“Our policy does not allow them to engage in sexual activities, but as people who are in their situation, I can’t deny it. I have not seen it. I do get such allegations. I’m not sure whether they use condoms or not,” she said.
Moloi confirmed there was a shortage of caregivers at the facility due to a lack of funding. The centre, which relies on donations for its upkeep, has seven caregivers and is subsidised by the provincial department of social development.
Social development spokeswoman Ncumisa Ndelu said they were not aware of the alleged rape at the facility, but would investigate.
“The department conducted an assessment on allegations of sexual activity, but there was no evidence found during the assessment in the facility,” she said.
Ndelu said the department was also conducting an investigation into allegations of financial mismanagement at the centre, while the report from the internal control unit was undergoing internal processes.
Chetty said this week she would be communicating with the human rights commission to fast-track its intervention, because “it seems that negligence at these facilities is fast becoming an everyday norm”.
“Thusi must reaffirm her priorities of her mandate towards people with disabilities and hold her failing department accountable. For far too long some Department of Social Development social workers have been getting away with neglecting the people they should be servicing,” she said.
The commission did not respond to queries from Times Select.
A hearing into allegations that a caregiver was beating residents began last week.