By Tauhierah Salie
Non-profit organisations, child and humans’ rights activists and the like are keeping a close eye on the momentous appointment of a Child Commissioner for the Western Cape. In a country where rampant crime direct and indirectly impacts children, the public is calling on increased transparency to ensure the commissioner advocates for children’s rights appropriately.
In February last year, the previous provincial legislature’s committee on constitutional matters accepted the Commissioner for Children’s Bill after scrutiny and debate by members.
The vacancy was created in line with the Children Act 2 of 2019 which, according to Social Development’s spokesperson Gillion Bosman is “the first of its kind in the entire country and the first at the provincial level.”
Last year, Bosman revealed that the duty of the Children’s Commissioner will be to:
- protect and promote the interests of children in the province;
- monitor, investigate, research and lobby on issues and policy that have an impact on children;
- upholding the rights of children; and
- ensure that crime and its impact on children and issues of children’s safety are addressed.
It followed a host of crimes affecting young children as well as concern over increasing levels of juvenile detention.
A total of 54 candidates were publicly nominated and underwent rigorous testing to see if they met the criteria. The list was thereafter shortlisted to 15 names
Child’s rights organisation Molo Songololo explained that the public need to be kept up to speed with regard to the appointment process, emphasising that he/she needs to be independent and fully available.
According to director Patrick Solomon, several crucial structures were involved in the discussions prior to the legislature being passed, including western cape government officials, national government, the national commissioner from education, South African Human Rights Commission and a number of NGO’s.
“The big idea was to get the views with regard to the new law for this commissioner, also to advice the process of appointment. The constitution says that the premier and parliament needs to put in policies to establish the commissioner for children. In order to do so, they had to create a law that will govern the powers and the functions of the commissioner. It sets out a framework and the issues that needs attention,” explained Solomans.
Molo Songololo was among those present at consultations.
“For example, the commissioner must promote the rights of children, needs to look at children’s education, children and social services and in detention. These are some different areas. He/she can also give attention to anything else that impacts children or is in their importance or best interest,” elaborated Solomons.
Solomon expressed excitement about the commissioner, particularly that he/she will have the ability to fine government departments for not complying to children’s rights.
“It also sets out the kind of penalties the commissioner can impose if there are individual or departments that don’t adhere to the recommendations of the commissioner. It means he/she must have the support of government. Independence is also very important,” said Solomans.
He alluded to one of the criteria which states that the commissioner must not be aligned to any political party. Bosman previously emphasised that the independent person must ensure that the needs of the children are prioritised over the interests of any and all affiliations.”
Solomon revealed that NGO’s will be hosting discussions as some feel that the public participation of interviews and final selection process is not clear.
“The provisions in the Act are not enough. We also need to know, for example, are there any inquiries against individuals, is any professional body investigating them, are there any complaints against- we need to know these facts,” stated Solomans.
According to Solomon the short list consists of eight individuals who are in the legal field.
“We also need to know that these people have done things outside of their job- do they have a passion of children? Have they particular interest around issues of children?” he questioned.
The candidates are expected to be interviewed between the 8-15 February.