Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas Letter to My Children and Grandchildren

Christmas 2015

My precious Niki, Denny, Abbe, Cameron and Olivia

My greatest wish is that my children and grandchildren will always know just how much I love them and know just how proud I am of each.
My greatest desire is that for the rest of their lives they will know that no matter what, I will always be there for them, anyhow I can.
My children are my most precious assets and I will hold them gently and safely in my heart forever.
When I look into the eyes of my children’s children, I look into the face of God.
If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart and I’ll stay there forever. (Winnie the Pooh)
I love you with all my heart.  May you experience a beautiful Christmas and a year ahead that will give you enough of everything you need, with a little more so that you can give some away.

Your Mom /Mooms 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The ear thermometer is a totally inaccurate measure of temperature in the body.

Summary of a talk by Dr Jeff Hasday
MD, PhD of the Maryland School of Medicine, leading professor of body temperature and fever

The temperature of a person is regulated by the hypothalamus which has a firing rate that increases as the body gets hot and slows down when in the cold.  To maintain a normal body temperature of 37°C there has to be equal amounts of gaba and glutamate to fire the neurons.
Fevers activate the endocrine and immune system.  Suppressing fevers by using antipyretic agents masks the underlying condition and therefore prolongs the infection.  Antipyretic drugs are only used for a patient’s comfort and it is advisable to let the fever continue so as not to mask the underlying medical condition.
External cooling, when you submerge the patient in a bath of tepid water or you use ice, cold wet sheets and a fan, is a very costly metabolic exercise.  The only time you would attempt to bring down a patient’s temperature by these means is if the person is suffering from heat stroke. (This was a very eye-opening message. I think most of us try to bring temperatures down in some way or another).  Two things can happen when you do nothing to bring down a temperature.  Small children can have convulsions and old people can go dilly.  Only then is an antipyretic really necessary.
There is an enzyme called PG2 which increases the temperature of a patient and an antipyretic inhibits this enzyme; which is necessary for healing the medical condition. 
Another quite shocking fact is that the thermometers used today in hospitals that are used to take an ear reading are the most unreliable instruments in the assessment of a fever.  Each ear will give a different reading; and putting the ear thermometer on the cheek with give another reading.  The old mercury mouth or anal thermometers are far more accurate.
Sir William Osler said in the early 1900’s, “Fever is natures might engine that helps recovery from diseases”.
Everybody gets fevers when they are ill, including those with autoimmune diseases. 
However, there is a group of people who never get a temperature and their normal body temperature can be as low as 34 or 35°C.  This group are known as the Primary Immune Deficiency/hypogammaglobulinemia/CVID and others which have almost no or no normal immune function.  This presents a huge problem for people like me because I can be as sick as a dog and have no fever.  The protocol at all hospital emergency rooms is that if your infection markers are up and you have a fever, you are put into hospital.  This does not happen to me.   I have to go back time and again and only when x-rays are taken am I treated as seriously ill.  I have never come across a single doctor who understands this phenomenon in patients with the above illnesses.  My normal temperature is 35.6°C.  Anything above that is a fever for me.  The reason we do not get fevers is because we have too much gaba and not enough glutamate in the hypothalamus, and therefore the firing rate of the neurons is impaired.  We do not have normal febrile response from the neurons of the hypothalamus.   Some of the sickest people will have no fever at all. CVID patients do not have a normal febrile response (firing rate of neurons).

The problem with CVID and related disease patients is the response they get at emergency hospitals.  It would be a good idea to get a letter that you carry with you from your Primary Physician to give to the ER doctor explaining that you have a below average temperature and to take into account that a few points above your “normal” should not be ignored and should be seen as a fever. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

How two Christmas traditions were born ...

How traditions are born

It was Christmas, 1984, and I had no money for anything; not even for a Xmas present for my two children or a birthday present for my son who was born on Xmas day.   I did not have anyone to ask to help me (although I probably would not have done so because at the time I was too proud to ask), and I had run out of all options to fix this catastrophic Christmas day.   I was extremely stressed and very unhappy.  What could I give to my two children to make it a festive day? 
I had to do something, so I told the children that from that Christmas and for every Christmas forever, we would have a new tradition in our home.  Each of us would write a letter to one another talking about what the other had done for them during the year that they appreciated; and how much we loved one another.  The only rule was that the envelope had to be home-made.  Our letters were ready for the next day.

On the 24th, I walked listlessly to the post-box attached to the front gate.   I could see that there was some junk mail pushed into it as well as the free newspaper that was delivered once a week.  I took everything out of the post-box and was sorting through it while walking back to the house.  In the heap of junk mail was an envelope addressed to me. 
Opening the envelope, I found a bank cheque written out to me for R100.00.  There was no note; just that cheque.  One hundred rand was enough to buy food and presents for my children and still have change, unlike today.   I went to the bank to find out if there had been some mistake, but “No”, they said, “that is from an anonymous donor and we cannot tell you the person’s name”.
We had the best Christmas ever – right at the last moment, the afternoon of the 24th December, I was blessed with a gift from some kind stranger.

From 1984, two traditions were born in our family.  We still give no presents to one another at Christmas.  We write one another a letter.  It takes a lot of effort, thinking and time to do those letters.  And the other tradition is that we find a family who are in need and anonymously donate what we can to make another family feel the spirit of the season of goodwill.  

Thursday, December 17, 2015

What is God’s father’s name?

My grandson’s name is Cameron.  He is 5 years old and lives in the United Kingdom.  He was having a conversation with his mum.
“Mum, what is dude’s name who is God’s father?”
“God does not have a father Cam”
“Yes, he does.  What is the dude’s name?”
“What are you talking about my boy?”
“I volunteered to be the dude because he does not have to say any lines.  What is the name of the dude who is God’s father?”
“God does not have a father Cam”
“Yes, he does.  He has a wife and a baby”
“Oh, you mean Joseph?”
“Yes, that’s the dude’s name.  I am going to be in the concert and I am going to be Joseph”.
“That’s wonderful, honey. I am so proud of you”.
“Well, I am only doing it because he doesn’t have to learn any lines”.


Just goes to show – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit – and how we confuse our small children with such things. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Operation Dynamite - the anniversary

Dianne if I were u I would leave Middeleburg while you still lucky 
CHAPTER ONE:  THE RAID

It was a hot night; summer in South Africa.  

I remember stretching out in my bed, in my short summer pajama’s and feeling grateful for being surrounded by beautiful things; things that I had carefully chosen for my new home.  I was happy and contented. My future looked peaceful with a long life ahead of me, filled with infinite possibilities.   I had nothing to fear and all was good in my world.   I fell into a restful sleep, excited about the possibilities of the next day.

I woke with the doorbell ringing incessantly, urgently.  I opened my eyes and saw that it was dawn.  The sun was only just peeping out, the freshness of a new day filling my lungs.  With uninhibited energy, I threw the sheet off my body and jumped out of bed. There was no let-up to the ringing of the doorbell.  I glanced over at the bedside clock.  It was just after 5am. 

My mind was confused.  I did not know who could possibly want me so urgently at this time of the day.  My son had a key to my back door, so it could not be him and the telephone had not rung so I knew that it was not a family member in trouble.  I stumbled down the stairs, not stopping to put on a gown or to cover my half-naked body that the summer sleeping shorts and skimpy top failed to provide.    Now I could hear someone banging on the security fence and gate, the bell still ringing.   I bumped into the coffee table as I moved with as much speed as I could to the sliding front door, and pulled the curtain aside.  My mind was in shock.  Standing around the front security gate was a dozen grim-faced and well-dressed men wearing sunglasses, and a half a dozen vehicles marked with the sign of the most feared police, the Scorpions. 

          "Open up!   This is a search and seizure operation."

Without thinking I pressed the release button on the gate and pushed the handle down to open the sliding door.  Before I had time to do anything else or even to get my mind around what was happening, these men were inside.   I stood there, holding onto the corner of the door for support, disheveled, in very revealing pyjamas; thinking that this must be a nightmare.   I noticed how well presented the men were; how shiny their shoes were and how each of them were dressed in suits as though they were going to court or to some very formal affair.  When  they were inside, I saw that there was one woman and about six men, although I still do not know exactly how many of them there were at that stage.  All I know was that there were enough of them to fill my lounge to overflowing.   They were all black, except for one short, coloured man who had a wad of papers in his hand.

          "Are you Dianne Lang?"  Harsh…aggressive…hostile.

          "Yes."

          "Are you the managing director of the SA CARE Trust?"

          "Yes."

          "This is a warrant for a search and seizure of these premises, the premises of your office and for your vehicle.  You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say or do can be held against you in a court of law.  Do you understand?" said the short coloured man.  

He handed me a pile of papers.  All I saw on them was 'warrant' and my address.  I could not take it in.  The papers were stapled together.  There were about 15 pages altogether.  The papers were official documents as they had government stamps on them.  I flipped the first page over and saw that it had been signed by a judge in the Grahamstown Supreme court.
   
          "Yes."

          "Where is your vehicle?"

          "Out the back."

          "Open the back door."

I moved towards the back door, my mind in turmoil, not knowing what to do next or what to think.  I remember thinking that perhaps I needed to phone my son or to phone Stuart, but my mobile phone was in the kitchen.  I also felt very vulnerable and was aware of the lower half of my bum sticking out from my shorts.   I felt as if the men were staring at me as I walked.  I was embarrassed, humiliated and could feel the sweat beginning to run down my back and legs.   I looked down to see wet marks on my top where I had rubbed myself under my breasts to soak up the perspiration.  As I turned the key in the back door, another man standing immediately behind me and who had followed me to the door leaned over my shoulder and pushed the door open, pushed past me towards the car.

          "Where are the car keys?"  There was no aggression in his voice; it was even a little friendly.

Taking the few steps into the kitchen I handed him the car keys.  He was the biggest of the men, with a bald and very shiny head, fairly good looking and with an almost friendly look on his face.  I thought that here was a man that I could communicate with, someone who may be able to stop anything ugly from taking place, someone who I could perhaps speak to, a kind of ally.   I did not know that this was part of the modus operandi of the good cop versus the bad cop.  He took the keys and went out the back door.  I was vaguely aware that a few others followed him.   There was a lot of activity going on.   People were going up the stairs to my bedroom and bathroom, others were in the lounge, others were standing talking quietly to one another in the lounge and there was one in the kitchen going through the drawers.  The kitchen was divided from the lounge by a counter top that I used as a dining table.  I looked over the table top and saw that there were two men going through my book case, taking every book out and thumbing through the pages.   The woman was lifting the cushions from the couch, unzipping them and pushing her hands under the covers, looking for something. 

My mind was either in overdrive or numb.  I could not think properly.  My thoughts were going from 'I have to get dressed, to I need coffee, to I need to go have a wee, to I must get Niki, my son, here quickly'.  A piece of paper fall out of one of the books onto the floor and the man, who was flipping through the book, bent down and picked it up.   A slow smile spread over his face as he opened the folded piece of paper and read it.   I have to get my act together fast, I thought, as I pulled sleep crusts from my eyes and rubbed my hands over my hair to smooth it down.
         
"What is this all about?  Explain this." the man said as he walked over to me and handed the paper over.  I could see the 'House of Commons' logo clearly from a distance and immediately knew what it was about.  It was a letter from the chairperson of the standing committee on aid to Africa, part of the communication I was having with the father of a friend of mine regarding the inappropriateness of aid for HIV and AIDS going to the government to be distributed to non-governmental organizations.  The aid did not get to the people who were working at grassroots levels and I was of the opinion that there was a better way of getting aid to the people who needed it. 

          "It is a letter to me from an MP in the UK." I said.

          "We must take this," he said with a knowing nod to one of the other men.
 
          "Here is some more," another man said as he walked down the stairs holding a number of my files in his hands.  He dropped the files onto the ever growing pile in the middle of the lounge.   

I looked around for the friendly man, now that the enormity of the situation with these Scorpions had sunk in.  I wanted to ask him if I could go and get dressed, but I could see out the kitchen window that he was still busy at the car with some other men, every door, bonnet and the boot open.  It was important that I start engaging with one of these people as a human being, and not as a criminal with frightening cops.   The coloured man seemed to be supervising the search so I turned to him and asked him his name.   He put his hand into the inside of his jacket pocket and as he did so, I saw that he had a shoulder holster on and that he was armed.   My eyes darted around and I could see that they were all armed with some sort of gun or pistol.  He pulled out a business card and handed it to me saying, "Will Manuel."   The card had the logo of the Scorpions on it as well as a logo with the scales of justice.  In large bold lettering it read 'The National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa.  Mr Whillynn Manuel. Special Investigator' - the man I had spoken to as least a dozen times during the past year.

          "May I phone my son please, Mr Manuel.  He lives one door away." 

          "Yes, you can phone him."  

I picked up the mobile phone and called him.     "Niki, come quickly please," and put the phone down.   "Can I go and get dressed please.  I also need to go to the toilet," I asked Manuel.

          "No, you can't go anywhere until I can get someone to escort you."

          "But I need the toilet.  I will pee myself."

          "You will have to wait."

          "Why?"

          "Because you may try to hide something from us."

          "Where is your safe?" asked another of the investigators.   I pointed to the bottom of the stairs, in the corner on the floor.   "Open it!", he demanded.  I took the safe key from the kitchen and handed it to him.

          "Go ahead and open it," I said.

          "No, you open it and open it now!" he demanded. 

          "But I will have to crawl on the floor and I am not appropriately dressed."

Just then Niki walked in.  He had thrown clothes on and was as confused as I had been to what was going on.  

          "What's happening Mom?" he said, breathlessly, putting his arms around me at the same time and standing strong in front of the investigators.   "Why are you not dressed?" he said, trying to hide my bum by standing behind me and wrapping his arms around my chest.

          "These are the Scorpions and they have a warrant to search and seize.  They won't let me dress until they have someone to go with me."


          "Can't my son open it for you if you won't?" I pleaded.

          "No, you open it," he demanded, handing the safe key back to me and opening his jacket so that I was under no illusions that he was armed. 

I took the key in my shaking hand, bent down and got onto my hands and knees, fully aware of the fact that now far too much of my anatomy was showing to all these men standing around.  I crawled into the little space under the stairs, inserted the key and opened the safe. 

          "Take everything out of the safe slowly and carefully and place it on the floor beside you." 

From this angle, all I could see were the numerous highly polished police boots standing around the bottom of the stairs.  I leaned forward and put my hand into the safe.

          "No sudden movements," I heard.

Since I already knew that they were all armed, I was doing exactly as I was being told.  I pulled out a small pile of papers that included my passport, identity document, my daughter's identity document and my will.  Next I pulled out a box of ammunition and finally, I reached in and pulled out a 9mm pistol which I put on the floor beside the other items.

          "OK, move away now...slowly." 

I got back onto my hands and knees and crawled backwards out of the small space.  Niki's arms lifted me back into a standing position.   One of the investigators was looking through the documents while the other was studying the ammunition and twisting the gun around and around his thumb.

          "Be careful.  That gun is loaded and the safety catch is off," I said.

          "Where is the license for you to be in possession of this weapen?" asked the man with the gun. 

I opened my handbag which was hanging over the kitchen chair and took out my purse.   From the purse, I extricated the license and handed it to him.  He studied the license and the markings on the gun and seemed satisfied that the license was genuine.  I could see the disappointment on his face.  This was not what they had hoped to get out of a safe hidden under the stairs.

          "Can my mom go and get dressed?" my son asked Manuel.  
          "Not yet.  When the lady investigator is finished then she will accompany your mother", he replied.

It was now 7am, two hours had gone by with every single item in the house being lifted up, opened, and checked; and either put aside to remove from me or put back more or less where it had been found.  My white carpets were brown from all the walking in and out of the building and back inside again without anyone wiping their feet.  My sacred space had been invaded and destroyed.   It looked like a bomb had gone off in my home.  Every single book had been checked, the pages, spines and covers.  Every cushion, ornament, drawer, piece of furniture, every CD and every DVD had been checked. 

I whispered to Niki to phone Stuart and tell him to come over quickly.  Stuart was the chairperson of the SA CARE Trust, the charity taking care of abused, abandoned, neglected and orphaned children.    I was still standing in very revealing outfit, feeling like I would piss in my pants at any moment.  Either the pressure on my bladder or the audacity of what was happening was sinking in because an anger and indignation welled up inside me.  Before I could think things through rationally, I was walking up the stairs to go to the toilet and to get dressed.  

          "Where do you think you are going?" shouted one of the investigators.
 
          "I am going to piss, then I am going to wash and then I am going to get dressed and if you want to come with me, you are welcome to come and watch me", I shouted back at him as I continued up the stairs.  I walked across my bedroom to the open-plan toilet, pulled my shorts down and sat on the toilet.   My bladder was so full that I was in pain and could not urinate.  I leaned over to the bath and turned on the tap, knowing that the sound of water would ease the urine from my bladder.  I knew that one of the investigators had followed me and he was now standing at the door to my bedroom, watching me.  'Fuck him,' I thought.  'If he has no values, morals or manners, then let him fucking watch me piss.'  I heard someone being called but could not catch the name.  It sounded like Nobu or something.  As I wiped myself with toilet paper, the female investigator walked in.  She was intimidating, not a small woman and she had an air of superiority about her.  Her attitude was aggressive and hostile and she glared at me.   The male left the room.  I walked over to the wash hand basin and rinsed my face, taking no notice of her and not speaking to her either.  I was angry.   I brushed my teeth and walked over to my wardrobe where I took out some clothes to wear, not paying too much attention to what clothes would be suitable.  A pair of jeans and a t-shirt would do.  I pulled my top off over my head, pulled the shorts down and stepped out of them.   She was standing so close to me that I kept on having to move away so that I could get my shirt on without bumping into her.  I could feel her breath on me, she was that close.  Then it was to my panty drawer to find a pair of panties to put on.  I could see that my drawers had been riffled through.  I slipped the panties on, again having to move away from her to do so without banging into her.   By the time I had got my jeans on I was on the other side of the room, having had to move away from her to get my clothing on.  I started moving towards the stairs but 'Nobu' or whoever she was told me to stand in the middle of the room and not move.

          "What for?" I asked, not without some anger in my voice.
  
          "Listen lady," she said, "You have no rights.  You are suspected of crimes - serious crimes…and you will do as you are told".  

She went down the stairs and I stood looking around my room.    I spotted my laptop lying in its black case between the roll-top desk and the dressing table.  It had not been touched yet.   Without thinking, I dashed across the room, grabbed the laptop and hid it behind all my shoes under my bed.  I was just back standing where 'Nobu' had left me when she came up the stairs again with another male investigator.   While I stood there, they went through every drawer, the bedding, turned the mattress upside down and told me to pull out everything from under the bed.  I lay down on the floor and duly pulled all the shoes and miscellaneous bags and suitcases out from under the bed.  I left the laptop where I had put it.  Since I was not asked if I had removed everything, I did not tell them that the laptop was still under the bed.

They started going through my underwear drawer.  Every pantie was lifted into the air and dropped onto the floor.  The same went for my bras.  Then it was time for the socks.  Every pair was unfolded and each sock had a hand stuck in it and then they too, were unceremoniously dropped onto the floor.  While 'Nobu' was busy with my clothing, the other man was busy going through the roll-top desk, taking every document, piece of paper, diary and journal - reading it and then putting it into a pile.   I saw him take my journal that I write down all my thoughts and feelings in and start reading.
  
          "That is personal," I said.   "That contains only my emotions and thoughts and has nothing to do with anyone or anything.  Please don't read it.  It is very, very personal."

          "Nothing is personal anymore.  Don't you know what the warrant said?  This is a search and seizure to find evidence of your crimes.  We will take whatever we want and we will read whatever we want," he said harshly.  

I cringed inside.  I died inside.  He was reading the details of the child abuse I had suffered as a child, something I was trying to deal with but was too ashamed to share with anyone else.  It contained graphic details of sexual abuse, beatings and my emotional reaction to what had happened.  I could feel the tears of humiliation running down my face. 

"Please," I said.  "Please, I am begging you. Don't take that journal.  It is very private.  Please don't read it," I sobbed.  

He laughed and put the book under his arm.  The lady investigator scooped all the underwear up from the ground and dumped them in the drawer.  She shut it with a bang.  The next drawer was pulled open.  It had all my sleep wear in it and a vibrator.  I could feel my ears flush with heat.   Was this nightmare never going to stop?  She stuck her hand into the drawer and pulled out this enormous vibrator that I had been given for my 50th birthday by my sister and her friend.  It was a very life-like, extra-large, rubber penis in bright pink.  She held it up in her hands like the statue of Liberty and turned it round and round.  Then with fascination, she screwed the bottom and pulled out the batteries and peered inside the shaft.  She passed the offending bright pink penis to the other investigator and he too, peered down the shaft of the offending piece.   No, there were no drugs hidden in the penis.  The batteries were put back and the penis turned on.  It did not work.   The batteries were removed and put in the other way around and it was turned on.  Hurrah, the penis performed.
 
          'Nobu' turned to me, "What do you do with this?"

          "You can have it if you want.  It has never been used." I said.

She dropped it back into the drawer and carried on going through all my clothing, drawer after drawer, cupboard after cupboard, while the other investigator went through my books, my files, my desk, looked behind the curtains, in the shower, behind the toilet, in the toilet cistern, on top of the cupboards, in my suitcases, bags, pockets and linen.   After about 2 hours I was told to follow them downstairs.  

Stuart had arrived and was going through the warrants.  He said there was nothing that we could do about it, the warrants seemed to be in order and that we were to allow them access to whatever they wanted.  No one thought of calling a lawyer.  After all, I had nothing to hide; I had not committed the crimes I was being accused of so there seemed little point in even thinking of getting a lawyer.  My mobile phone was ringing incessantly.  I answered it.  It was Diana Jagers, the committee chairperson for the children's home in Middelburg.  She was hysterical, telling me that she had a dozen Scorpions raiding her home.   As I put the phone down the phone rang again and this time it was Tanya, the secretary for the children's home telling me that there were about a dozen Scorpions investigators at the office in Middelburg who were doing a search and seizure.  A group of Scorpions were doing the same in the children’s home.  Stuart had gone off to work and he also phoned me when he got to his place of work to tell me that there were a dozen Scorpion investigators at his place of work with a warrant to search and seize. 

By this stage, the place was crawling with investigators in what I had now heard was 'Operation Dynamite'.   Investigators had sealed off the front of the property, the back of the property and were next door at our offices with both front and back sealed as well.   When Janine, my secretary, came to work at the office next door, she was confronted with a warrant to search and seize at the Port Elizabeth office.  Hours later, they were finished taking things from my vehicle and my home and I was escorted to the office where the search and seizure was in full swing.  I was feeling numb by all that was happening.  My mind just could not take in what was happening to me and everyone else and why this was such a big scale investigation spread over so many properties and people.  What on earth did they think I had done?  I had not even looked at the warrants or what crimes I was alleged to have committed.  It was only days later that I sat down and read them.  I could not get my mind around the enormity of this raid that had been sparked by a personal vendetta of a police officer in Middelburg.  

I had been so sure that this would never happen because, after all, the Scorpions were the best police officers in the country, according to the media.   They involved themselves in organized crime and corruption of high profile government officials and crimes involving more than four million rand.   I was so sure that they would have seen that this was just the informer's personal vendetta against me.  The evidence and correspondence that I had sent them clearly showed that there was no crime committed and that they would leave it all where it deserved to be left.   Surely, with the enormous work load and the very real criminals that they were dealing with, they would not have time for such a trivial matter where it was obvious no crime had been committed.  Jacob Zuma, our future President was also being subjected to the same raids and seizures that I was undergoing, so whatever they thought I had done was just as important as that of our future president.   Little did I know how over-zealous they were, and how many kudus it would bring them if they could take someone down who had won humanitarian awards, and at the same time shut that person up and to stop her from exposing human rights abuses by government officials.   Little did I realize that the search and seizure was to seize all evidence that I had against government officials as well, or perhaps it was only to seize my evidence? 

I was getting phone calls in-between answering questions from the investigators and watching them pull the office to pieces, writing down what they were finding and carrying everything with them and placing them into the boot of their vehicles.  Tanya called me again from Middelburg to tell me that every single document except the children's files had been removed from the Children's Home office.   They had also taken the computers with them and the office was rendered useless.  No work could be done.   The Scorpions had gone through everything in the children's home, had taken serial numbers of every electronic and electric item, had taken photos of everything in the home and had questioned the children.
 
          "What do you mean they questioned the children?   Were you there?  What questions were they asking the kids?  Surely that is a human rights abuse to be interrogating children?" I shouted down the telephone.   Tanya started crying. 

          "Dianne, there was nothing I could do.  They were in both places at once and I was not allowed to leave the office.   The staff told me that they were questioning the children and asking them where they got their uniforms from, how you paid for them, where you got the money, where you bought the food and all kinds of things."   I was immediately contrite.
 
          "Don't cry Tanya.  You did good.  It is not your fault.  Best thing you can do now is to go Spar and buy some cakes and sweets and cool-drinks, put on a video or DVD for the kids, and try and get everyone to calm down.   This will be OK.  Don't worry about anything."   Tanya calmed down.   "I will ask Diana to come around as soon as the Scorpions have left her house, OK?"  

          "Okay," she sniffled.  

          "Now you must be brave Tanya.  You have nothing to be afraid of.  Everything will be alright.  Just close the office.  There is nothing you can do without computers or files so go down and spend time with the children and do that for the next few days until we can sort something out, OK?" 

I picked up the phone and called Diana.  The Scorpions had just left her home after going through it with a fine toothcomb.  They had taken her personal computer as well as all the documents and files on the children's home, including some of her own personal files.  She said she would go down to the children to see how they were doing.

          "Are these all the financial statements, invoices, and bookwork you have?" asked Manuel.

          "No, the financial documents from the preceding years are in storage at the storage facility which we pay for.  Here are the details and the pin number to have them released," I said, as I wrote down the address and pin number on a piece of paper.   Manuel took the paper and gave it to one of the other investigators and sent him to go and fetch them.  

          "Where are your personal financial documents?" Manuel asked. 

          "The current and last year's documents are with the auditors, Buckingham and Associates and the previous years are with Margy Fourie Accounting Services."

I wrote down the addresses for Manuel and more investigators were dispatched to these people to seize documents.   I quickly phoned Margy Fourie to warn her that the Scorpions were on their way, but never got a chance to let Buckingham and Associates to warn them.  It may have been, in retrospect, a good thing that I never managed to warn Buckingham and Associates because the Scorpions had tramped on the lion's tail when they raided the auditors for my property.   They tried to take all my details off their computer but only managed to wipe the auditor's hard drive clean.  This left them in a predicament because all their work was lost, not only my audited financials.  They also took all the documents that belonged to me, with Christine, the auditor, shouting and cursing them every step of the way.

The investigators were sitting at all three desks in the office.   The female investigator, who I now knew as Nobulali Gawe, had asked me for a chair because she wanted to sit as well.  Off I went to get her one. She was grabbing documents on the desk, shuffling them around and mixing them up, completely destroying the order of the documents.
  
          "Hold on a minute.  Don't do that.  Let me tell you what belongs with what.  Some of those documents are outstanding invoices that must be paid..."

          "Don't tell me what to do.  You have no rights here.  I can do as I like.  Best you get away from me.  You had better be careful otherwise we will have you arrested for obstructing justice," she said with unbelievable hostility and aggression.

          "Do not speak to me like that.  I was only trying to help."

          "I don't need your help.  Get out of my way.  You have no rights.  You are a nothing," she hissed.  

My heart hammered in my chest.  The audacity of this woman!  I could feel the anger rise, and I had to control myself not to say anything else to her.  I walked out the main office into the office kitchen where the good cop was going through the files stored in the cupboards. 

          "Excuse me," I said.   "I would like to know who is in charge of this investigation."   

The man turned to look at me and reaching into his jacket pocket, pulled out a business card and handed it to me.   "My name is Mbomiswa.  I am the senior special investigator."

          "Can you please do something about that woman in there," I said, pointing back towards the office.  "She is rude and aggressive.  I have not stood in your way at all, and I have been more than cooperative.  Can you please sort her out?  She has no manners and no respect." 

The tears were falling and a great sob erupted from my chest.  The numb shock had left me, and my mind was trying to get through the horror of what was going on.   Mr Mbomiswa looked shocked and went to speak to Nobulali Gawe.   He came back into the kitchen and apologized to me for her behavior, suggesting that I make a formal complaint to the National Directorate of Prosecutions.   I never did bother to do that.  My life was too upside down from that day on to bother with individual people and their obnoxious behavior.  However, for the rest of the day this obnoxious woman stayed away from me and never spoke to me again.
 
Stuart called me on my mobile phone to tell me that the Scorpions had removed the foundation files from his office, and that he had been driven at 180km per hour to his home, 30 km’s away.   The Scorpions were searching his home.  Some investigators were still at his place of employment where they were attempting to remove data from his computer at work.  His voice was very calm and controlled but as I knew him well, I knew that he was trying very hard to keep his emotions and anger under control. 

I was feeling very guilty about the number of people who were now being raided, questioned and interrogated just because they had links to me.   I felt responsible for what was happening to them and I just kept on apologizing to everyone whenever they called me with more news on the raids or with more questions on how to handle things.   I told Diana, Tanya and Margy Fourie to just tell the truth because I had done nothing wrong; and if they thought they were protecting me by withholding information, then it would look like I was guilty of something.

It was almost lunchtime and most of the documents in the office had been loaded into the vehicles outside; vehicles that were arriving and going and investigators who were in and out of the office.  Niki had gone to work, Stuart was being held at his home while the Scorpions did their search and seizure, Abby, one of my assistant’s was so afraid that I had sent her home and only Janine, my personal assistant, and I were at the office with the investigators.  With the vehicles with the Scorpion logo that were coming and going, the neighbors were becoming very interested in what was going on.  They were also walking up and down in the front and back of the building.  The keys to my vehicle were handed back to me.  Nothing was taken or found in the vehicle. 

          "Are you finished with me now?"  I asked Manual. I had by now found out that he was the Investigating Officer on the crime.  The Senior Investigating Officer, Mr Mbomiswa, my good cop, had left earlier in the day. 

          "No, we are waiting for the computer specialists to come and take copies off of your computers," he replied.
          "What exactly are you looking for?   What do you think I have done because I gave you everything, including the audited financials, months and months ago when I first learned that I was being investigated?" I asked.

          "Well, there seems to be an amount of one million rand that has gone into your private funds from the trust since 2000." 

I was shocked.  Where on earth did they get that idea?  

          "That is ludicrous.  It is impossible.  We have never had money like that in the trust account to transfer to me.  How did you get that idea?"

          "Well," he said, "There has been a lot of money going from the trust account into accounts in your name and there have been large transfers of money from the trust to your private bank account."

          "Of course there would be that kind of transfers going on.  The telephone bills, the lights and water, the doctor's bills, the petty cash bank account are all in my name, but they are the trust's things and are paid by the trust.  Just because the actual accounts are in my name does not mean that they are for my benefit.  Also, money that is transferred to my bank account is money that I have loaned the trust when they don't have money, and then it is paid back.   I have often had to borrow money from my bond to pay salaries and things, and then when we get money in, it is paid back to me.  I have never taken one penny for myself", I replied, my voice rising with indignation and anger.

          "Then how can you explain a transfer of twenty thousand rand to your personal bank account?"

          "I have just told you, when the trust has no money I lend the trust money by borrowing from my bond, and then when there is money in the trust it is paid back to me.   You have all the financial documents so it is easy to see exactly what is going on.  I don't even do the books myself.  My private books are done by one auditor and the trust books are done by another auditor, so if there was any funny business going on then they would have to be in on it too, which is not the case.  I am shocked that you have had to resort to a raid like this when I specifically asked you in a letter not to do something like this and to ask me anything you wanted from all the financial statements that I had sent you."

          "You can't tell us how to do our jobs."

          "I am not telling you how to do your job.  I just thought that you would use your common sense, see that the informer has a personal vendetta against me, have a look at the financials and then do the right thing and drop this nonsense."

          "I am not an auditor or an accountant so I don't know how to interpret those kinds of things."

          "Then how can you just assume that I am guilty of stealing a million rand?"

He did not answer and looked away.

          "How do you expect me to take care of all the children in my care with this going on?  I can't run a charity with no documents.  No matter what you do those kids still have to be taken care off, housed, fed and schooled?   This is going to have a seriously detrimental effect on the children."

          "Would you like to speak to Advocate Cilliers?  He is the person who in charge of this investigation."

          "Yes, please." 

Manual took out his mobile phone and called a number, spoke for a few minutes to Cilliers and then handed me the phone.

          "Mr Cilliers, I am responsible for over forty children.  How do you think I am going to be able to do that now that you have taken everything from us?   As it is, the Department of Social Development has a problem with me, and this is going to play right into their hands.  Those children are my responsibility and without any documents or anything else, they are at risk."

          "Would you like me to write a letter to the Department of Social Development informing them that you are not being charged for any crime at this stage and it is merely an investigation?" he asked.
  
          "Yes, please.   Can you tell me how long this investigation is going to go on for, and when I will be able to get my things back?" I asked.

          "Well, we are all going on holiday so we will be closed for Christmas, but everything should be wrapped up by the end of February, the latest.  Remember, this is only a preliminary investigation and you are not being charged with any crime at this stage."

          "Mr Cilliers, every transaction from my private bank to the trust's bank and back again is legitimate.  When the trust has no money, I borrow money..." I was saying when he interrupted me.

          "Mrs Lang, I have to advise you that anything you say can be held against you and you are advised to seek legal counsel."

          "But I have nothing to hide.  I am only telling the truth and why would I need legal council when I am telling the truth?" I asked.

          "Just be warned.  You do not have to answer any questions, but if you do, it can be held against you."  

I was getting nowhere so ended the conversation.  I looked over and saw that one of the investigators was reading something on the computer.  I could see from where I was sitting what it was.  My heart sank.  At the same time I could feel the warmth of humiliation and embarrassment spreading over my face.  Was nothing sacred?  Was my soul being raped over and over again?  I had been humiliated and embarrassed by not being dressed early in the day, worried that they had taken my private journals and now they were actually reading my innermost thoughts, my one great secret that I did not want anyone to know.
 
          "Please, that's private.  Please, please, please don't read that..." I begged as I touched the man on his shoulder.  

He turned to me, sneered and turned back to continue reading.  I wanted to die.  I did not want to be there in my skin anymore.   I cringed and went and sat down on one of the chairs not occupied by an investigator.  I had no fight left in me.  My soul and spirit had been raped.  There was nothing left of me that was private or that I could call 'me'.  I now belonged to everyone to do with as they pleased.  There was no control.  I was empty.  The tears poured unchecked down my cheeks.  I had no energy to wipe them away.  I was numb.   Louis Jenner had promised to see me in the gutter with nothing.  He had done his worst and I was left with nothing inside of me.

Perhaps my tears softened Manual; perhaps he was a human being with feelings.  He had not been nasty or rude to me but now he appeared softer somehow.  Perhaps he was realizing that he had made a mistake.  He leaned over and grabbed a tissue from the box on the opposite desk and handed it to me.
          "Don't be upset." he said.

I could not even answer him.  How could he tell me not to be upset when he was responsible for unbelievable trauma; when he could not use his common sense and had made the situation worse with this investigation?  I was done in, shattered and empty.  An investigator I had not seen before walked in with cases of equipment and sat down in front of one of the computers.  He was going to take a copy of everything off the computers.  He was battling to do whatever it was he was trying to do.  Most of the investigators had left, including the miserable female.  There was only the investigator trying to take copies from the computers, one other investigator and Manuel left.  I offered them a cup of coffee which they accepted. 
          "Can you tell me how the money between you and the trust works?" asked Manual.

          "I don't think I am going to answer any of your questions because your Advocate Cilliers told me that you could use the answers against me and I don't want to talk about anything now because whatever I say may be misconstrued so if you don't mind, I will not answer any of your questions," I said. 

Just then I was interrupted by a call from Stuart.   "Guess what, these fucking bastards have forgotten their equipment here at the office. They brought me back and left.  All their equipment to take copies from the computer are lying here.  What a fucking bunch of pricks!"
 
          "Well, they are still here trying to take copies from the computers but they struggling.  Are you OK?" I asked.

          "Ja, I'm fine...just fucking angry.  They think they can do as they fucking please... driving at 180km an hour...no regard for the speed limit...fucking cunts.  They digging a hole they going to fall into themselves and this is all because of that fucking Jenner." 

Stuart was ranting and raving and swearing non-stop, not that I blamed him.   I realized that the reason why they could not get what they wanted from the computers is because they had left some of their equipment behind at Stuart's office.   I told Manual that they had forgotten something at Stuart's office and after he spoke to the computer investigator, he called someone to go and collect their equipment at Stuart’s office.
  
          "Are these all your computers?" Manual asked. 

          "No, we have one in for repairs."

          "Tell them to bring the computer back." 

I did as I was asked and phoned Gary to bring the computer.  He brought it back immediately.  Gary was asked for advice about how to copy from a hard drive without corrupting the files.  He told the computer investigator how to do it.  He left the computer, which the Scorpions subsequently seized.

          "This is taking too much time.  We will just take your computers and return them when we are finished with them."  
 
          "No, you can't do that.  We cannot run the children's home without the computers so you must take what you want from them and leave them with us," I said.  
The missing Scorpion equipment duly arrived and eventually they had what they wanted, leaving us with computers that we could not work on because all the files had been corrupted by them.  Sometime in the afternoon, all the Scorpions left.  Manual promised me that the matter would be dealt with and the documents and equipment that they had seized would be returned to us before February. 
           

It was the 6th December 2006. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Saving Children is an Exercise in Futility if the Child Care Act is not used by Social Workers and Commissioners of Child Welfar

Book available from dianne.lang1@gmail.com or on Kindle
20 December 2006

A typical example of how the Social worker and Commissioner of Child Welfare ignore the Child Care Act 

After years of fighting for children’s rights, particularly to ensure that Section 28 of the Constitution is adhered to by the officials responsible for children in our country, Dianne Lang is still battling and losing the fight for children’s interest to be taken into account on the very first levels of service.

On 16 December 2007, The Dianne Lang Children’s Home Supervisor, Diana Jagers, was telephoned by Sister Essex of the Wilhelm Stahl Hospital in Middelburg at 3pm to say that an abandoned baby had been brought in by the police.  The hospital had no place for the baby and that they had been instructed by the Senior Social Worker, Mr Johan Pienaar, of the Department of Social Development, to telephone the Children’s Home to care for the child until Tuesday, 18th December 2007.

The baby girl, aged 5 months, was brought to the Children’s Home by Police Officer SI Ngubentombi, who had also been instructed to bring the child to the home by Mr Pienaar.  The police officer stated that the baby had been brought to the police station by her father who was under the influence of alcohol.  The father stated that he was unable to care for the child and that the whereabouts of the mother were unknown.   They had been living on a farm and he had brought the baby into town after he could not find the mother anywhere.

The Children’s Home may not take any child into care without a Form 4 signed either by a social worker, a police officer or an officer of the court.  Diana Jagers attempted to contact Johan Pienaar and Pumza Mobo, both social workers of the Department of Social Development, but was unsuccessful in reaching them.   Police Officer SI Ngubentomi then completed and signed the Form 4. 

Hasty arrangements were made to have a supermarket opened on a Sunday afternoon to purchase bottles, nappies and baby formulae. 

On Sunday evening, 16th December 2007, the father of the baby arrived to tell Diana Jagers that he had found the mother in one of the townships of Middelburg.  The mother was also under the influence of alcohol.  She told him that both of them were to accompany her to the Commissioner of Child Welfare on Tuesday morning as she could not hand the child to them in the condition they were in and that the child has been placed in her care until Tuesday.  

On Tuesday, 18 December 2007, Diana Jagers, took the baby, Asemahle van der Berg and a staff member Emmanuel Moyana to the court.  The parents of Asemale were there.  This is the procedure according to the Child Care Act.  Diana Jagers phoned Johan Pienaar and told him that she was at court and he informed her that the procedure was correct and that the Commissioner would inform the social workers what to do.

After waiting for more than an hour, Diana Jagers was informed that the Commissioner of Child Welfare was on leave and that Mr Mata would stand in as Commissioner.  She requested to see him at once.  She explained the reason she was there and he told her to hand the Form 4 to the Clerk of the Court to open a case file.  He would then review the file and make a judgement.   The Clerk of the Court told her that she would contact Diana as soon as Mr Mata had signed the Form 5 granting a 2 week extension for investigation.

At noon, the Clerk of the Court contacted Diana Jagers to say that Mr Mata was not going to grant an order because the social worker had not signed the Form 4 and that there was no social worker’s report.  Diana then took the Form 4 to Johan Pienaar, who looked at the Form, wrote that the case had been referred to his department on it, and told Diana to return it to the Clerk of the Court, which she did.

At 17h00, Pumza Mobo, another Department of Social Development social worker came to the children’s home to interview the mother and father.  She said that Mr Mata had instructed her to do an investigation before he could make a ruling.  She wrote down some notes and phoned Mr Mata.  He told her to come to him.

At 18h00, Pumza Mobo arrived back at the Children’s Home with a hand written note from Mr Mata on a blank piece of paper, stating that the baby was to be handed back to the mother.   This was not a court order, but a note written on a piece of paper.

The correct procedure is for the magistrate (Commissioner of Child Welfare) to bring the parents, the child and their legal representatives to court.    The commissioner is supposed to allow the social worker to read his or her report under oath.  Further witnesses may be called on behalf of the state (the policeman and the hospital staff) where after the parents will be given an opportunity to present their evidence. 

Parties have the right to know what is in the social worker’s report.

If a social worker has not been able to do a report in time, a Form 5 is issued for a 2 week period, during which time, the social worker is given time to do a thorough investigation of the circumstances of the child.   Please note that the social workers were aware of this abandoned baby for a number of days before it came before the Commissioner of Child Welfare but since it was a long weekend ….

None of this happened.

The report of the social worker consisted of a few questions put to the parents and her reporting back to the magistrate via a telephone conversation.   When the Social Worker went back to the Commissioner of Welfare, it could not have been to court, otherwise the letter would have been a court order.  The court order was collected by Diana Jagers from the Clerk of the Court on 20th December 2007, date stamped 20/12/07, two days AFTER the removal of the child.

The reason given on the Court Order returning the baby to the parents states:  ‘They did not appear in Court.  They gave explanation to the social worker P Mobo about what happened’.

Our Constitution and Child Care Act only means something if it is implemented correctly.   When the Department of Social Development send memos to NGO’s working with children to attend updates of the amendment of the Children’s Bill, when they themselves do not have any idea of how to implement the current Child Care Act or Constitution, it would be laughable if it were not so tragic.  Needless to say, these meetings are cancelled at the last minute, when NGO’s fail to hear where the venue is to be held.

I never wanted to be an activist for Children’s Rights.  I was happy to just take care of those abandoned, abused, neglected and orphaned children.  You, the Department of Social Development, turned me into a political activist, when you wanted to remove the children from me and put them back on the street, where they would die of hunger, hypothermia, abuse and AIDS.

I would not have had to take on this job, if you had been doing something about our children. 

How do the Department of Social Development see me?  Do they see me as an interfering body that just shows them up?  Do they not see the good in our project, the determination and motivation to make a difference to the lives of the children of SA so that we have a future that is good?   Is it just easier to criticise, condemn and denounce those who want to make a difference?  Have I shown people how uncompassionate our society is and how uncaring our officials in the DOSD are? 

It is a crying shame that the world does not see how it really is for our children.  It is a disgrace that our President, Ministers and our Members of the Executive Council do not see this, do not respond to our letters, our telephone calls, our complaints and do nothing about it other than to continue to allow their personnel to persecute those who are caring for the children.

What kind of a future do we have when we do not care for our children and when we give our abandoned babies back to drunken parents without finding out from the witnesses what happened, because a five month old baby cannot speak for herself?  How tragic that the best interests of the child is so easily swept aside.


Dianne Lang © 2008