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Family of Joburg woman allegedly abused at frail care centre lodges complaint at SAHRC

25 May 2022

Relatives of Fatima Callaghan, who was allegedly abused and ill-treated at an old age home in Mayfair West, Johannesburg, have laid a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

SAHRC Gauteng head Buang Jones confirmed that the commission had received the complaint and it was in the process of performing a full assessment to determine the next steps.

This, after the family accused law enforcement agencies of dragging its heels in dealing with the matter. In the SAHRC complaint, the family said a huge concern was that the Gauteng Department of Social Development admitted to the Callaghan family that they were aware of at least one former case of abuse at this same centre, after another family reported it to them.

"They did not investigate the matter because the family refused to take it any further. They could have prevented the abuse of Callaghan, and other patients at the centre.

"The Brixton police [have], meanwhile, informed the family that they would not be investigating the matter any further because Callaghan cannot speak for herself and the evidence of her bruised body and lack of records from Abida Fakroodeen is not enough to warrant an arrest," the complaint to the SAHRC stated.

The family called for the department to take "full responsibility because they did not act after the first case of abuse reported to them".

They also want the police to be held accountable for not furthering their investigation.

Family spokesperson Virginia Keppler said:
We should be worried of how they investigate the matters of babies, disabled people who also cannot speak like Callaghan, or dead people who definitely can't speak.

The department did not comment by the time of publication.

Gauteng police spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Mavela Masondo, said the matter was reported to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and they decided not to prosecute.

"They are lying, from the start they didn't even want to speak to the family. They said they couldn't investigate the matter, so what they gave to the NPA was a blank document because they say Fatima can't speak for herself... that's why we opened a case with the human rights commission," Keppler countered.

Callaghan's family members said their 58-year-old relative was allegedly abused, starved for days on end, tortured, burnt, beaten, and "horribly neglected" during her four-year stay at Abida's Frail Care Centre.

Keppler said staff also withheld Callaghan's medication. She suffered a broken finger, which was never reported and for which she never received any medical care, Keppler added.

She said it was suspected that Callaghan was abused over the four-year period, and it only came to light when the family noticed her black eye and scars on her face.

She never spoke out to her family because "she was threatened with starvation and assault", Keppler said.

Keppler said Callaghan's family immediately removed her from the centre and on further investigation several bruises were picked up on her forehead, back, left eye, and hands, and she had an old pressure wound on her hip.

In April, the department launched an investigation into the centre after allegations regarding poor living conditions, physical abuse, questionable staff qualifications, and the facility's registration came to light.

The department said the centre was also in contravention of the Older Persons Act.

Despite it being in operation as a non-profit organisation (NPO) for more than 10 years, it did not have occupational health and safety compliance certificates, social development department spokesperson Feziwe Ndwayana said.

Ndwayana said the facility was also in contravention of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 75 of 1997, because caregivers at the facility worked 24 hours without any shifts.

Fakroodeen could not be reached for comment. Should her comment be received, it will be added to the story.

Source: News 24

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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