The social development department in KwaZulu-Natal warned it will not hesitate to shut down and prosecute unregistered operations that provide care for people.
This follows the removal of about 20 people, including the elderly, people with disabilities and children, from an unregistered facility at Osizweni in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
The department had received a tip-off from residents who were concerned about the facility, Centre of Hope, where residents were crammed into an old bus depot which was meant to provide training for repairs and maintenance.
All the residents were removed and placed in different safe and registered facilities across the province.
KZN MEC for social development, Nonhlanhla Khoza, said it was disturbing that the province had people who continued to run illegal facilities, risking the lives of vulnerable groups.
The department has issued a stern warning to those who do not abide by the law when caring for vulnerable people.
She said none of those found at the Centre of Hope facility were placed there in terms of any legislation. The department was also informed that the facility is registered as a non-profit organisation and a place of care.
However, there were no documents to support this.
Khoza added that the conditions at the facility were appalling and there was a total disregard for basic health, safety and dignity of all the people and children kept there. There was also non-compliance to norms and standards and the place was not suitable for human habitation.
“We are displeased because people open these facilities as they think of making a quick buck, exploiting vulnerable people. Any facility that takes care of vulnerable people should be registered and operate within the ambit of the law,” said Khoza.
She added that the department was on a drive to close down all illegal operations in the province but depended on the public to share information about such facilities. She said the department, working together with its social partners, would not hesitate to shut down illegal operations and ensure that those involved faced the law.
“We will have to work harder to ensure that we bring an end to any behaviour that threatens the lives of vulnerable groups in our province,” she said.
Khoza said that the department would remain on high alert to prevent disasters that could result from illegal operations.
“We urge communities to be considerate when wanting to turn certain [structures] into residential facilities.
“We understand the challenges faced by some of our people, including old persons who reside alone in their homes which endanger their lives. Let us work together to ensure the safety of our people and not put their lives at risk,” she added.