A senior Eastern Cape government official has written a controversial memo inviting parents of pupils who were allegedly raped by white people to a workshop tomorrow.
The memo written by the social development department’s Grahamstown area manager, Sindiswa Adam, invites parents of at least four primary schools in the area, to a “preparatory” meeting ahead of MEC Nancy Sihlwayi’s visit to the area scheduled for next week.
In the letter, Adams stated that “the workshop will be focusing mostly on parents of those children who were allegedly sexually abused by white people during the last financial year.”
Sihlwayi’s office has since distanced itself from the letter. Her spokesman, Mzukisi Solani, said Adam had not received clearance from her line manager when she crafted the letter.
“She has written an apology to the department and to the stakeholders who received the letter,” said Solani.
Pupils from one of the schools cited in the memo have led protests against the release on bail of two men, aged between 60 and 70, who were arrested last August and charged with child molestation and rape of eight girls aged between eight and 12.
The Dispatch reported at the time that protesters expressed their anger that the two accused were white men who lived in “affluent” Kenton-on-Sea, while the alleged victims were young black girls from impoverished Ekuphumleni.
The 70-year-old faced charges of allegedly raping two girls and sexually molesting two others. One of his alleged victims, a 10-year-old, testified in court that she had been raped in his house between January and July last year when the girls came looking for food and money. The accused denied this as lies.
Contacted for comment about the invitation, one principal said he was not aware of it.
Another principal confirmed receiving the invitation. He said that even though he overlooked the race connotation, he was concerned about the exclusion of parents whose children were raped in other incidents, not just the Kenton-on-Sea case.
“I remember us getting the invite from the department and we felt it was a good initiative, but we were just puzzled at the fact that such support would be offered to the victims from the Ekuphumleni case and not all children who were victims of abuse. For instance in our school we do not have children that were involved in that case.”
Contacted for comment yesterday Adam admitted her decision to use the race card in her memo was a mistake.
“I can honestly say it was a big mistake,” said Adam.
The Dispatch has seen the apology letter Adam wrote yesterday. In it she said: “I humbly apologise for the usage of this word in our invite as it was a mistake. I didn’t imply any form of discrimination nor racism.”
The incident occurs while the DA is still awaiting the outcome of its application to the Human Rights Commission to investigate MEC Sihlwayi after she instructed one of her senior officials to exclude poor white children from attending a camp in Port Alfred.
The DA condemned the memorandum, calling it unprofessional and racially motivated.
The DA’s MPL Kobus Botha said the statement also discriminated against child victims of sexual abuse who had been abused by abusers from other races.
“This type of insinuation does not enhance the department’s reputation and its mission to transform our society by building conscientious and capable citizens as the core of social change. It also undermines the values of the department especially the value of integrity and dignity,” said Botha.