Simphiwe Dana's family lays 'attack' charge
Police called after a neighbour allegedly beat her nephew
Singing sensation Simphiwe Dana is seething after her 12-year-old autistic nephew was allegedly beaten by a neighbour in East London.
The alleged attack by Phillip Thomas, 66, came after the boy apparently continuously strayed into the Chiselhurst Extension home of the pensioner, despite the man warning the boy's mother to keep him away from his unfenced home.
Thomas has denied the assault. The boy's mother, who is Dana’s sister, claimed the neighbour had zero tolerance for her child despite warning him about his condition.
She has now laid a complaint of assault of a minor with the Cambridge police.
Cambridge police spokesperson Captain Mluleki Mbi confirmed a case of common assault was being investigated.
“When I first arrived at that neighbourhood in September, I warned everyone, including him of the boy's condition but my neighbour continued getting angry every time he sees my son at his home and accuses me of negligence,” the mother said.
She said the incident happened on January 29 at the pensioner's Armist Road home in Chiselhurst Extension, east of Cambridge.
“My child came back that day crying and when I inspected him, he had handprints on the bum and thighs.”
In a short telephonic interview from her Johannesburg home, the award-winning songstress Simphiwe claimed the attack was “racially-motivated”. However, her sister described the incident as one of hatred and one that stemmed from a lack of understanding of autistic people.
“I wish people could understand autism. It is not a mental illness but a developmental disorder. My child's IQ level is extremely and abnormally high. He can crack codes and unlock cellphones without seeing a password, find hidden keys to open the door and gates. It's not easy.”
Dana’s sister, a local events organiser, claims she was forced to leave a good job in Johannesburg to look after the child in East London. The incident had left her son traumatised and bruised, she said.
She believes the attack happened after her child became "fixated" and "fascinated" by a newborn baby and a fan at Thomas’s house.
“I know him, he loves babies and fans and gets fixated. “I wish people could learn to treat people with autism better.”
The woman said she called the police and went to the home of the suspect, where her son became restless and hysterical and started pointing at the suspect in front of the police.
“He [Thomas] denied hitting my son and claimed that he may have fallen, but I asked him to explain the hand prints to which he replied, 'I better not find this boy in my home again'.
“I told him I can't guarantee that because his home didn't have a fence and my son was not well and I can't chain my child.”
The Dispatch visited Thomas’s home, where he denied assaulting the boy.
"He came from down the street and passed my house limping and went to his home. I have no knowledge of it," Thomas said.
Asked how his relationship was with the boy’s mother, he said: “I don't talk to them. They run a business in a built-up residential area. Trucks stop here to pick up furniture because she organises events. People laugh and shout at night and early in the morning. I can't sleep. They park in my driveway."
Thomas, who revealed he was a retired railway signalling engineer technician and war veteran, said he had lived in peace with neighbours for 42 years until the mother and the boy moved in next door.
"I have stopped complaining to them because they just laugh at me. She [mother] was a problem from the beginning."
Thomas said when the mother came to his house with the police, he told the officers he would never hit a child who was "mentally ill".
Thomas confirmed that he owns two cooling fans that caught the boy’s attention...