SAFMH News Room

On Sunday, 03 September 2023, investigative news programme Carte Blanche aired a report about Ikwezi Lokusa Special School in Mthatha.

Despite a previous investigation into Ikwezi Lokusa in 2017 revealing the unlivable conditions and neglect of the children who live there, the Carte Blanche reporters returned to find no changes had been made. Instead, what they uncovered was nothing short of horrific with children with physical and intellectual disability having to sleep on beds made from brick and being left unsupervised for hours.

We, the SA Federation for Mental Health strongly condemn the abuse, neglect and human rights violations against the children being cared for at Ikwezi Lokusa. We call on the National Department of Education and all other responsible government departments, including National Department of Social Development and National Department of Health, to work together to develop a system to ensure that these children receive comprehensive care and support to lead meaningful lives.

We are deeply concerned about the ongoing and blatant disregard for the care and support towards children with special needs in South Africa and call for immediate action by duty bearers to improve the care and protect the human rights of these vulnerable children.” – Bharti Patel, National Executive Director

Ikwezi Lokusa Special School in Mthatha was operated by missionary sisters for decades before the government took over in 2001. Described as a “once a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the care of children with disabilities whose families could not take care of them”, it seems that the care of the children has only deteriorated.

Despite various international (South Africa is a signatory to The United Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) and national legislation (White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) and policies (National Mental Health Policy Framework 2023-2030), persons with disabilities, including intellectual disability (ID), do not enjoy the same rights as the rest of society.

SAFMH advocates strongly for persons, including children, with ID to have equitable access to resources, safety and education. We leverage our ongoing awareness campaigns to call on Government to enable the rights of persons with ID through ensuring that stigma against these individuals is curbed, and that opportunities for employment, education and wider community integration are actively facilitated, through bringing to life the ideals encapsulated within the South African constitution. It is important for all us of to ensure that the human rights of all children with ID are upheld, just like everyone else’s’.

Whilst the Eastern Cape Department of Education has vowed to upgrade the school’s facilities by December 2023, it is yet to be seen. The failures of Ikwezi Lokusa should never be allowed to happen again.

You can watch the full report here.


For enquiries, please contact:

Michel’le Donnelly – Project Leader: Advocacy & Awareness

CELL: +27 (0)79 799 6533

EMAIL: michel’


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