A homeless Zimbabwean teenager is set to be sent home for allegedly assaulting other children with an iron rod at the Polokwane welfare complex.
The 17-year-old boy is currently being detained at the complex's secure unit with other minors who either await trial or have been convicted of criminal offences.
A case of assault was opened against him on September 1. Two other children, also Zimbabweans, were charged for the same offence.
The trio's charges were withdrawn in court five days later, but the Limpopo Social Development Department described the teenager as a "ringleader" and decided to keep him in custody at the secure unit.
The two other boys were released from detention and are allowed to mingle with other children in the place of safety.
Both the place of safety and the secure unit are located in the same welfare complex, but children in the two units are not allowed to mix.
The complex houses about 150 children, who are said to be homeless or orphaned, or who have fled from their abusive homes.
Department spokesman Macks Lesufi said the centre had 17 foreign children.
He said the detained Zimbabwean boy had arrived at the complex in March.
"Because of his violent character, the department sought an opinion from the social workers, who recommended that he be placed at a secure unit," said Lesufi.
He added that the action had also been backed by the court.
But a source at the centre, who did not want to be named, said the teenager was being kept unlawfully.
"Please note that no child should be kept at secure care if he is not arrested, awaiting trial or sentenced as the Child Justice Act says. This is child abuse."
He added that his department was communicating with the Home Affairs Department to have the boy repatriated to Zimbabwe because he was in the country illegally.