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Officials galvanised by isolated haven’s cry

The report about Ikhaya Loxolo, a home for the mentally disabled in the Eastern Cape, has sparked a dramatic response from government officials.

“All hell has broken loose since the publication of your story about our home,” Alex Gunter, the head of Ikhaya Loxolo, a home for the mentally disabled near Elliotdale in the Eastern Cape, told the Mail & Guardian.

On November 8 2013, Bhekisa published a story, “If they are raped, then so what?”, that investigated the rape of mentally disabled girls and adolescents in Hobeni village in the Elliotdale area and the alleged refusal of government social workers to assist parents with mentally disabled children to find homes.

The article also looked into the Eastern Cape department of social development’s alleged refusal to accept funding proposals that Ikhaya had submitted in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008.

As a result of the story, Ikhaya has received up to R10 000 in cash donations and several promises of clothes and equipment for their mentally disabled residents.

“But what has excited us most is a high-level meeting with the Eastern Cape social development department in which we have agreed on timelines and goals for the future,” Gunter said. “We have also received very useful assistance from the Eastern Cape health department with registering as an official service provider that will enable us to qualify for more types of government funding.”

The week after the story was published, a team from the Eastern Cape health department was commiss­ioned by Parliament to visit the home.

According to the Eastern Cape social development spokesperson, Gcobani Maswana, who attended the meeting with Ikhaya, social workers complained that they did not have transport to visit Hobeni.

“That has now been rectified …and I have personally seen to a 4×4 being made available so that social workers can have one-on-one meetings with villagers with mentally disabled children to assist them and also [hold] group workshops to encourage them to send their children to Ikhaya and apply their kids’ disability grants effectively,” Maswana said.

He said his department has also put a process in place to assist Ikhaya to apply for social development funding and ensure the applications are accepted for review.

An M&G reader and mother of a disabled child, Pennellope Jonesa, commented online: “How on earth can someone say what we read in the heading [‘If they are raped, then so what?’]?!? My word, it’s shocking and downright inhuman and selfish! Thank goodness for people trying to help these people.”

Mia Malan is the founder and editor-in-chief of Bhekisisa. She has worked in newsrooms in Johannesburg, Nairobi and Washington, DC, winning more than 30 awards for her radio, print and television work.