MEC calls for calm after death of six-month-old child
Roxanne Henderson | 2017-03-22 12:07:18.0
MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza and other officials spent this past weekend visiting child and youth care centres‚ from which vulnerable children were being transferred to safer spaces. File photo
Image by: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Bafana Mahlangu
Gauteng Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza has called for calm following the death of a six-month-old child‚ who was transferred from a government facility in the wake of strike action.
The MEC addressed members of the media in Johannesburg on Wednesday after news of baby girl Singalakha Sonamazi’s death broke on Tuesday.
The infant was diagnosed with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and was underweight at birth.
This is the first reported fatality since the National Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) embarked on strike action on March 13.
Striking workers have allegedly barricaded entrances at government facilities‚ barring essential supplies‚ like food and medication‚ from entering and locking non-striking workers in.
“I was told how some of our children who have chronic illness such as HIV/AIDS could not access their medication or food‚” Mayathula-Khoza said.
The MEC and other officials spent this past weekend visiting child and youth care centres‚ from which vulnerable children were being transferred to safer spaces.
“We were confronted by scenes of frightened‚ hungry‚ visibly distraught children and severely traumatised remaining staff who have been locked in for several days‚” the MEC said.
She called for calm and thanked community volunteers for assisting in the crisis.
“We appeal to our workers to exercise their right to strike and to be mindful of the communities and beneficiaries that we serve …we continue to appeal for non-violent demonstration‚ free of intimidation‚ as opposed to the current three-fold form blockages at most institutions.”
Singalakha and her three older siblings were among 90 children who were moved on Friday due to acts of violence at the Walter Sisulu Child and Youth Care Centre.
“Singalakha Sonamazi was placed at Bethany Trust Home CYCC (child and youth care centre) and received all the necessary medical and child care services. During her stay at the said facility‚ she gained weight and her health improved.
“However‚ shortly before 05h00 yesterday morning the child was fed her bottle as per routine. According to a child and youth care worker on duty‚ she observed that the baby closed her eyes and stopped moving.”
CPR was administered but the little girl was declared dead almost two hours later‚ Mayathula-Khoza said.
Singalakha’s family‚ who live in Bekkersdal in Gauteng’s West Rand‚ have been offered psycho-social support in their time of bereavement.
“We cannot reconcile the complete disregard of human life with the principles of democracy and human rights as encapsulated in our Constitution. We therefore call upon the leaders of the unions involved in the strike as well as their negotiating partners in government to find each other speedily so that we can prevent more fatalities.
“In our meeting with the Premier of Gauteng yesterday to break this sad news to him‚ he indicated he may be forced to request the assistance of the South African National Defence Force‚” Mayathula-Khoza said.
NEHAWU reportedly said‚ however‚ that it had done nothing wrong and that the department was responsible for ensuring the safety of its beneficiaries and the continuation of essential services during the strike.