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By Kamini Padayachee
June 1, 2011/ ioL News
The former owner of a Durban North children’s shelter will be charged with several counts of child trafficking and fraud.
This was heard in the Durban Magistrate’s Court yesterday when Hester Elizabeth van Schalkwyk made a brief appearance.
Van Schalkwyk, 60, was arrested in February this year for allegedly carrying out an illegal adoption at her shelter, the Survivors Children’s Sanctuary.
In court yesterday, prosecutor Val Melis said 30 additional counts would be added to the charge sheet.
“These charges include 17 counts of contravening several sections of the Children’s Act, child trafficking, attempted child trafficking and six counts of fraud.”
Melis also said the State had discovered that Van Schalkwyk had misled the court during her bail application in March, when she said she had only two previous convictions.
“We have found through a search on the police system that she has six previous convictions. At this stage we are not taking any further action. But we do intend charging her with failing to disclose her previous convictions to the court,” said Melis.
Van Schalkwyk had previously said she had one previous conviction of facilitating an illegal adoption and another of fraud.
Melis said the case would have to be transferred to the regional court because of the seriousness of the counts that had been added.
“The State asks for a final adjournment for investigations to be completed and for the case to be transferred to the regional court.”
Van Schalkwyk’s arrest came after Carte Blanche aired two programmes on its investigation into her alleged illegal activities.
Despite reports of the home being shut down in 2008 by child welfare authorities, she allegedly continued running an unregistered establishment for abandoned or orphaned children.
In the Carte Blanche programmes, couples claimed that Van Schalkwyk had promised them children to adopt from the home but said they did not have to speak to social workers.
The couples also alleged that two children were promised to several families, but the children’s mother had not consented to the adoption.
After her arrest, the children’s home was shut down by the provincial social welfare department and the children were placed in the care of a non-profit organisation, Just 4 Us Children.
The case was adjourned to July 28 and Van Schalkwyk was ordered to stay away from State witnesses and children who had lived at the shelter.
She is out on bail of R5 000