‘Be quiet, be quiet and don’t move.” These harsh instructions – yelled to a 15-year-old girl by a masked policeman, waving a gun in her face, during a raid on a Pretoria North shelter nearly seven years ago – still haunt her today.
The raid on the Genadeplaas headquarters in Burger Street in October 2005 resulted in a civil damages claim of more than R46 million against the ministers of safety and security, social services and the national commissioner of police.
The case was placed on the Pretoria High Court roll on Monday for trial but postponed. This was after advocate Anli van der Walt, who represents the Genadeplaas plaintiffs, asked that the court consolidate the six cases – claims from the children, their parents and the owner of the land near Hammanskraal where Genadeplaas is based. The matter could go to trial this week.
The defendants opposed the claims but to date could not provide the court with reasons why the raid had taken place.
During the raid 22 children were removed from the care of their parents.
The children lived in the Burger Street house during the week as there was no school at Genadeplaas.
They went back to the shelter over weekends and school holidays. In some cases their parents accompanied them to Burger Street for the school week.
In court documents, it is alleged that the children were removed without the necessary documents and bundled into a truck without knowing where they would be taken.
In earlier statements to court, Trishé Henderson, 23, who has agreed to have her name published, said she was 15 at the time of the raid.
She said a masked policeman woke her up shortly after 6am on October 6, 2005, by pulling her blanket off her and waving a gun in her face. “I could not see his face and his voice was muffled.
“When I asked him where my mom was he told me to be quiet and not to move. I was so scared, I thought he was going to hurt me.”
Henderson said they were then questioned by social services women in the dining room. “(They asked) strange questions like ‘are you afraid of your father and has your father ever hurt you?’. When I said no, they asked me again and again,” she said.
Henderson’s father had died a few years earlier. “We were being questioned for hours, the little ones were hungry and cold and we were not allowed to take any of our personal belongings with us,” she said.
The officers and social workers never told them where they would go or why, she said.
“The little ones were bundled into a truck, crying, screaming and reaching for their mothers. One little boy wet his pants after they had to pull him out from underneath the bed where he was hiding. He was only four years old,” she said.
Henderson, who was at court on Monday, said she wanted justice. “I still want to know why they raided the home and treated us so harshly.”
Henderson, who was born on Genadeplaas, said her entire life changed after the raid.
“I failed standard eight and I blame them. I could not study and all my projects were on a computer which they confiscated,” she said.
Henderson said it was not only the trauma of the ordeal that haunted her but the children at school called her “poor” and teased her because she had failed.
The children were taken to a place of safety where they remained for 56 days before being returned to their parents following numerous court applications.
The parents of each child are claiming R1.1m for the unlawful removal of their children from their custody.
Genadeplaas is run by Paul Grobler, who started it with his pension money. He is claiming R4.1m for unlawful entry to his premises following the raid. He claimed police and social services officials defamed him by claiming he assaulted some of the destitute people; committed indecent acts or allowed them to happen; and forced the children who lived there to work for him.
Particulars of claim for each plaintiff:
General damage: R2 million
Costs for counselling from social workers: R50 000
Legal costs: R50 000
Total cost for all 22 plaintiffs: R46 200 000 - Pretoria News