South Africa, Durban – IN 1986, KOGIE Perumal kissed and hugged her children goodbye before she left for work. However, little did she know it would be the last day she would see them.
According to Perumal, her children, Magdelene and Dellon Perumal, who were then toddlers, were taken by child welfare services based in Pinetown.
Perumal said she was later told the children were removed after child welfare officials received an anonymous tip-off that the children were being neglected.
For more than three decades, Perumal, 56, who now lives in KwaDukuza, has been searching in vain for her children. Today, Magdelene would be 37 and Dellon, 34.
Magdelene was named after Mary Magdalene in the Bible and Dellon’s name was chosen by her sister, Priscilla Pillay.
Perumal recently turned to social media to try to reunite with her children. When they were born, she lived in Verulam with her partner, their father. However, there were problems and the couple decided to separate. She moved in with her family who lived in Motala Farm, which is now known as Motala Heights, in Pinetown.
“I was a single parent with two children. Magdelene was three and Dellon was one. Their father had moved on and we did not keep in contact.
“I managed to get a job as a machine operator at a carpet manufacturing company in the area. My aunt agreed to care for my children while I went to work. I repaid them by helping out with the groceries and other expenses in the home.”
Perumal said as far as she knew, her children were well taken care of.
“The last day I saw my children, I hugged and kissed them goodbye. They both said ’I love you, Mummy’. They had big smiles on their faces as they waved goodbye to me. They looked so happy. And this is the image that has stuck in my mind.”
According to Perumal, while she was at work, officials from the welfare offices went to their home and removed the children from her family’s care.
“My family was unable to contact me at work because they did not have a telephone. I only found out that the children were removed when I returned home that afternoon. I remember breaking down in tears. I did not sleep the entire night.”
The next morning she went to the welfare offices.
“I was told by one of the staff members that they had received an anonymous tip-off that my children were being neglected. I was in shock. I told the staff member that it was not true and that I wanted to see my children, but they refused.”
Perumal said she tried on numerous occasions to get answers, but failed.
“Every time I went to the welfare office, they refused to allow me to see my children. They did not even tell me where the children were being kept, or if they were okay.
“I asked them how they could take my children away without speaking to me first or investigating the allegations, but I got no answers.”
Over the years Perumal continued to liaise with officials from the office.
“Many years ago they told me that the files containing my children’s information were destroyed in a fire and that they could not assist me. I feel so hurt.
“I did not register their births and this has further complicated issues. After a few years of searching, I donated their clothing and some of their toys to a crèche. Packing up their belongings was one of the hardest things I had to do. I felt depressed and sometimes, I fear I will never find them.”
Perumal, a Christian, said she was determined to find her children before Christmas.
“I am hurt. The welfare robbed me of being a mother to my children. I was not there to care for them when they were sick or if they got hurt. I never got to take them to school for the first time or be there when they matriculated. I don’t know if they are married or have children.”
She said the welfare officials involved had failed to properly investigate her matter.
“They should have come to me first to question me about the allegations. I was trying to provide for my children to give them a better life and now I have been punished for it.”
Perumal said she wanted to find her children to assure them she did not abandon them.
“I want them to know that I loved them. I tried my best to get them back. I can only imagine the pain they must have gone through thinking I had left them. All I want is to be reunited with them.”
She said her daughter would be 37 now and she had a birthmark on her right arm. Her son would be 34.
Perumal subsequently remarried and had two other children.
Her sister, Lorriane Pillay, said that even though decades had passed, the family continued to feel the void left by the loss of the children.
“My sister went back and forth to the welfare office looking for the children. I accompanied her on some visits. But we could not get help. I watched her cry herself to sleep and fall into depression because she missed them so much. It is a pain no mother should feel.”
Pillay said her sister worked to support and care for her children.
Jeevie Pillay, a private social worker, said Perumal’s case was unusual.
“In these circumstances, the allegations must be investigated. During the process, the welfare organisation must engage with the parents about the developments of the case.”
Mhlaba Memela, the spokesperson for the Department of Social Development in KZN, said the department would investigate Perumal’s allegations.
Anyone who has information can contact Perumal at 079 347 2492.