By Anees Teladia
The Western Cape could soon see the appointment of a long-awaited children’s commissioner if all goes according to the plans of several non-governmental organisations (NGO’s). Child right’s advocates have long been calling for a commissioner, as the province has the highest child murder rate in the country. In the 2017/2018 period, a total of 279 child murders were reported in the province, contributing 17.4 percent of the province’s total murder figures.
The Children’s Commissioner would be responsible for monitoring and promoting the rights of children in the Western Cape, monitoring how the provincial government is doing with the implementation of child rights, identifying problem areas with child protection and responding to complaints around child rights violations. The commissioner would also be tasked with the investigation of complaints around child rights violations and would be responsible for reporting on progress made with the implementation of child rights to the provincial legislature.
Patrick Solomons, director of child protection organisation Molo Songololo, says that while the framework for the induction of a children’s commissioner has been in existence for years, they are finally steps closer to a formal appointment and leaps closer to increased child protection in the Western Cape.
“The child rights protection organisations in the Western Cape are keeping an eye on the process regarding the Western Cape commissioner. The provincial constitution obligates a provincial parliament and premiers office to establish a commissioner for children…but for more than 20 years they haven’t done this,” said Solomons.
“However, we now have a situation where we are one step closer to establishing the commissioner for children. We have the Act [Children’s Act] and the next step is that the regulation that governs the implementation of the Act needs to be developed so the commissioner can implement.”
Solomons indicated that while there may already be a form of child protection in the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), it is inadequate. Solomons argues that children need specialised and focused attention – not just provincially, but nationally.
“The NGO’s are also aware that South Africa needs a national, viable and independent child rights monitoring mechanism for children in South Africa. We will address this issue because what we have at the moment within the SAHRC is not enough. It is not a full-time monitoring of children and there aren’t enough resources for them.”
“We will call for a viable and suitable national commissioner to be inducted, soon,” said Solomons.
Solomons also reiterated the dire situation children in the Western Cape face. Widespread calls for a commissioner were amplified in 2017 when 66 children were killed in Cape Town.
“Children in the province experience high risk and many vulnerabilities. They are traumatised by various crimes committed against them…child murder is also high in the province,” said Solomons.
According to many child protection NGO’s, the induction of a children’s commissioner would greatly assist different organisations and child protection groups in identifying where they are failing.