Johannesburg – Eighteen children living at a church near Ncgobo in the Eastern Cape were not allowed any form of schooling, which was against the law, the social development department said on
Social Development MEC, Nancy Sihlwayi, and officials visited the Angel Ministries church on Wednesday to understand its practices, spokesperson Mzukisi Solani told News24.
On Monday, after months of investigation, police and social workers removed the children from the church.
According to Solani, people stayed in hostel-like dwellings and were barred from communicating with the outside world.
This was a rule handed down from the church's founding father, who died in April last year, leaving his wife and seven sons in charge of running it.
Solani said the church's decision not to provide any schooling for the children was against the law, which prompted the department's decision to “rescue” them.
Place of safety
Although there appeared to be about 100 or more people staying at the hostel, the department only took children between the ages of 7 and 13. Some had no birth certificates.
They were taken to a place of safety until the department could find other relatives who could take them in, Solani said."We don't want to take them back to that environment because it is against the law not to allow children to attend school.”
Some of the children were not originally from the Eastern Cape, which made it harder to find their relatives but it appeared the adults at the church had gone there voluntarily.
Eastern Cape police spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Mzukisi Fatyela, said the church refused police entry, so they had to force their way in.
"It's alleged that they were not allowed outside the gates. When you are staying at that church you don’t leave the church," he said on Tuesday.
No arrests had been made.
The ANC in the Eastern Cape and the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities condemned the church's practices.