Neo Malete, 9-year-old from Eden Park West has ran away from home countless times after claiming that his legal guardian has been abusing him and he is not in school.
Neo’s life changed after he lost his grandmother whom he stayed with in Orange Farm and was moved to Eden Park to stay with his aunt.
On 14 November 2019, Funeka Adams, brother was driving to the shops around 10pm when he spotted Neo being manhandled by a group of boys, he approached them and asked what was going on, he was told that they were forcing Neo to go home.
“My brother brought him home that night, the next morning we took him to the police station the next day and to our surprise, he was known by the polices, that is when we learnt that he has ran away from home many times,” she said.
“Honestly we were shocked to learn that his guardian did not even bother to report a file of a missing person with the police,” she said.
Neo then remained with Adams family for a week, the family then approached the social development offices and to their dismay, the treatment they received left them in shock.
“Basically we were told that Neo is a troubled boy who is acting out of character, the social workers vouched for Neo’s guardian saying she is a decent woman, but failed to answer me when I questioned them about Neo constantly running away from what is supposedly a decent and safe home,” said frustrated Adam.
The family realised that the system was failing this child when they learnt that on the same day that they had left Neo with the social workers, he was sent back to the house he claims he is being mistreated and abused.
“We went to check on him on Sunday and the woman was extremely rude and dismissed us, telling us that Neo had gone to church,” she said.
“Few days later we found out that Neo had again ran away from home and was staying with an elderly woman, a few streets from us, I think he stayed there for 2 weeks.”
On the 7th Neo returned to Adams family and he was wearing dirty clothes and he seemed extremely hungry.
On Monday, Taxi times, accompanied the family to Eden Park Police and we were received by sergeant Baloyi who has been working on Neo’s case since May.
“I have been working on Neo’s situation for months, I have sent Neo to the social development several times, we don’t have shelters to place Neo as the SAPS, that is why we have referred his case to social development,” said Sergeant Baloyi.
Neo’s guardian was contacted, until we left the police station almost 2 hours later, she still had not shown up.
We then proceed to the social development offices in Thokoza, where we were asked to remain in the waiting area while they discussed with sergeant Baloyi.
According to Sergeant Baloyi, the social workers promised to find a solution to Neo’s problem.
The community is planning to, march to the social development offices to demand that they find immediate help for this child.