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Lawyers probe human rights abuse at Vukuhambe

A legal firm is investigating a possible human rights violation case against two disabled boys from Vukuhambe Special Needs School in Mdantsane who spent hours locked in a police van after stealing food.
An attorney with Uitenhage firm Lessing, Heyns, Keyter & Van Der Bank, Chanté du Toit, said once the investigation was complete and they were in possession of all relevant information, they would take instruction from the teens over whether they were agreeing to mediate or sue.
Two weeks ago the Dispatch reported on the controversial arrest of two 18-year-old wheelchair users, Mava Mlomo and Yamkela Samente.
The youths, who live at the school’s hostel, were arrested for stealing some pieces of chicken and 10 viennas from the hostel’s kitchen in September.
They and other pupils claimed that on the evening they decided to break in, they had last eaten in the morning and were hungry.
The following day the two boys were arrested after a staff member called the police.
According to Mava, the deputy principal folded their wheelchairs, and the boys and their chairs were “stuffed” into the back of the police van and taken to the NU12 police station.
On their way to the station they wet themselves with fear as their wheelchairs rolled over them in the moving van.
The pupils said they spent about two hours locked in the back of the van before they were transported back to the school.
Du Toit said they were contacted by members of the community and family members who requested them to investigate the matter.
“Currently we only hold instructions from our clients to investigate the circumstances surrounding their unlawful arrest and their detention. Furthermore, we hold instructions from our clients to investigate speculation regarding the ill treatment of pupils at Vukuhambe,” said du Toit.
Du Toit said they visited the school last week after being instructed by the family to consult with the boys. However, they were barred from entering the school premises.
“We requested to speak to the principal. The security guard informed us that he was not available.
“We waited for approximately three hours. We had no alternative but to leave the school grounds,” she said.
Mava’s grandmother, Nozemhle Mhlola, who is also his legal guardian, said she was happy that the matter was being investigated.
“What they did to him was very painful,” she said.
A number of other pupils told the Dispatch they sometimes spend a whole day without food. The pupils also made allegations of physical and verbal abuse.
Education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said they’d had no reports of food running out at the school lately.
“We had such reports last year, but not this year.”
Mdantsane police spokesperson Captain Nkosikho Mzuku confirmed that a case of theft was opened against the pupils and that, following the inquiry by the Dispatch, internal investigations were launched.
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