South Africa: Evicted Nigel Families Fear Separation From Their Children

Families living in a dilapidated church in Nigel fear that their children will be taken from them by social workers who have declared their living conditions unsafe.

Social workers from the Nigel Department of Social Development say living conditions at the church on the R51 Springs road, where ten families evicted from a building in Nigel about two weeks ago are living, pose a high health risk for children. They have recommended that ten children be taken temporarily to family members living in cleaner and safer environments. But the families in the church say they do not want to be separated from their children.

The old church has no toilets or electricity. They say they were promised toilets but nothing has yet been done. They are using bush nearby as a toilet. The municipality has been bringing them water. School buses ferry their children to and from school.

"We are only looking at the well-being of the children," said Khosi Fakude of the Nigel Department of Social Development. "The current living conditions of the families are unsafe and unhealthy, especially for children. We have recommended that family members with houses take the children temporarily until suitable accommodation has been arranged."

Susan Steenkamp, who is living with four children and her 88-year-old father, says social workers have told her to send her father to a retirement home and her children to family members who have a house.

"I do not want my children or my father to be taken away," says Steenkamp. "We may not have much, but we have each other."

"The municipality should arrange a place where we can live together as families."

Lungile Motolo lives with her husband and two children, one of whom is disabled. They have built a small shack. Motolo said social workers had told her to take her child to a home for the disabled. "I cannot do that because every child deserves to live with their mother, disabled or not."

"Why do they want to take my children away?" says Nomvula Makubo, a single mother of two sons. "Only death will separate me from my boys."

Thandaza Maduna has been sleeping out in the open with her 20-month-old baby. "The reason l am not living at my family home is that there are many people living there. I am grown up and should have my own place."

"Sending my baby away is out of the question."

Thandaza Maduna says she will not give up her baby. Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro

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