A peoples commission of inquiry into child violence and killings in the Western Cape was held last week with members of the public and civil society organisations.
The inquiry was hosted by the Trauma Centre in partnership with the South African Human Rights commission, after government failed to approve the call by lobbying groups for a judicial commission of inquiry into child safety.
According to the National Crime Statistics for 2017/18, a total of 985 children were murdered across the country, with the majority killed in the Western Cape.
A staggering 219 of the 279 reported child murders were boys while nearly 73% of the country-wide total were also boys.
One of the commissioners Dr Llewellyn MacMaster, said the call for it to become a judicial inquiry has fallen onto deaf ears. He said he was unsure why the proposal was rejected by the Western Cape Government.
MacMaster explained that submissions were made to the portfolio committee earlier this year for a people commission of inquiry. The aim was to create a platform to hear ‘’what people on the ground feel’’ regarding the gruesome killing of children in society.
Despite the judicial inquiry not materialising, MacMaster said something still needs to be done.
“If we don’t do anything, we should also be held liable for failing our future generations. We should be providing a voice to the voiceless and create a sense of hope to communities,” he stressed.
The commission attributes various socio-economic factors to the high murder rate, such as the lack of housing, high unemployment rate and lack of proper education.
MacMaster noted that each case is complex, and it cannot be over-simplified, but the lack of transformation seen in communities contributes negatively to the social ills the country is experiencing.
MacMaster said the circumstances such as unemployment and overpopulation overexpose children to detrimental aspects of life, such as sexuality and abuse.
“When children are exposed to certain things such as sexual assault, poor living conditions, they adapt to that lifestyle which makes them easy targets for abuse. It is important for children to be educated about things like rape, sexual assault and other forms of abuse so that when it does happen, they are fully aware of what they should and should not do,” he said.
MacMaster added that police should be more approachable and conduct themselves in a way that would make it comfortable for victims to report crimes.
“What’s the use of changing the name from ‘police force’ to ‘police service’, when there are complaints of lack of compassion when people come forward with information or follow up on reported cases,’’ MacMaster stressed.
Following last week’s engagements, a report will be written up by the commission and Trauma Centre to see ‘if there are gaps that needs to be filled’.