Tears flowed as parents started testifying yesterday at a public inquiry into child killings in the Western Cape, claiming their pleas for help falls on deaf ears.
The two-day inquiry is being held at the Novalis Ubuntu Institute in Wynberg.
It comes more than a year after various non-governmental organisations unsuccessfully lobbied premier Helen Zille to launch an inquiry.
Zille reportedly said an inquiry would be too costly, while child murders are on the rise.
National police statistics issued earlier this year show the killing of girls under 18 increased by 10% at last statistical count. The killing of boys under 18 had increased by 20%.
In the Western Cape, the rape and murder of victims such as three-year-old Courtney Pieters in Elsies River bears testimony to an increase in violent child deaths.
Valdi van Reenen-Le Roux, director of the Cape Town-based Trauma Centre, is one of the leading organisers of the people’s commission of inquiry.
The South African Human Rights Commission is supporting the gathering and will have a representative as part of four commissioners listening to mothers and fathers.
Van Reenen-Le Roux said they wanted to create a space for parents but also come up with an “advocacy strategy aimed at finding solutions”.
“This inquiry is giving people the opportunity to be heard. We have already heard the views of children on their rights to safety. We will write all of this into a report that will have findings and recommendations that we will give to the provincial government,” she said.
Llewellyn MacMaster, one of the inquiry commissioners, said it was “time the voices of our community are heard”.
“If the government cannot create space for mothers who have lost children to speak then we will bring people together and hear their stories first-hand,” said MacMaster.
“Ignoring trauma does not mean it disappears. We have seen how trauma plays itself out when children who have been abused become abusers. We are creating a safe space for people to speak. We will also have trauma counselors available at the hearings.”
Avril Andrews, one of the mothers who testified at the inquiry, said they wanted their voices to reach the government and police bosses.
“This commission of inquiry is important because it seems like nobody wants to listen to us. We are mothers whose children have been murdered. When we go to police stations we are treated like we are the murderer. We get no help from police detectives,” said Andrews.
“We don’t want government departments to blame each other. We want them to respect us and our loss. We want them to work with us.
“Our communities and families need healing and closure. That is part of what I would like to see.”
Andrews started a support group, Moms Move for Justice, in Hanover Park where she lives. Its aim is to help “broken mothers heal”.
“We give court support to mothers who are intimidated by the accused’s family. We go with them to court. We do healing dialogues and referrals to counselors,” said Andrews.
Patric Solomons, director of child rights group Molo Songololo, said they would “reflect some of the voices of the children that we work with and the violence they experience”.
“Children have been shot, stabbed, assaulted, throttled and murdered. There is a need for children and their mothers to express their views and what this does to them. We need to hear their voices,” said Solomons.
In a related matter, public comment for the Western Cape government’s call for input into how its proposed commissioner for children operates closes today (November 15).