Deputy Minister for Social Development, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu says her ministry is concerned at the discovery of more than 3 000 under-age girls who are pregnant or are made mothers.
The discovery was made late on Saturday at the rural Ratlou Local Municipality, about 70 kilometres outside Mahikeng in the North West.
All young mothers are school drop-outs, unemployed and their children are suspected to have been fathered by older men.
A 12-year-old young girl is amongst those that were discovered. The discovery has left everyone, including government reeling in shock.
The Ratlou Local Municipality has a population of about 100 000 people. Of the number, 3 000 are under-age girls who were in 2015 impregnated and had to drop out from school.
The young mothers are from Mareetsane, Setlagole, Madibogo and all other villages in the Ratlou municipality. And they all have sad stories to tell while some claimed to have been raped by their relatives, some practiced unsafe sex, others are reported to have been the victims of the popular blesser-blessee phenomenon.
Shockingly, all of them are below the age of 18.
Some girls, who could not be named because they are below the age of 18, had this to say: “It was a mistake. (I) was young, did not know that doing that will lead me falling pregnant. My brother used to be beat me up, and my mother was not really staying at the house. Life is so hard because I am young and even the child has no support. My brother did not treat me well at all.”
Coming into question, are the households of these young mothers; how they themselves were allegedly failed to be provided with proper parenting.
In other cases, it was revealed that the area is rife with child-headed households.
A 12-year-old, who had already given birth to a bouncing one year six month baby, was amongst the young girls discovered.
Bogopane-Zulu wants government to crack the whip.
“The first step is to understand, who are the perpetrators, and but to also listen to the girls because we can’t judge them. As social development, we work with the children to be able to understand what happened, how it happened, and obviously, we have those that were cheated and those that were raped. So, each case has its own merits. We can’t be happy when our children are denied the rights to be children.”
Popular cultural activist, Mme Grace Masuku who attended the event was shocked, and pleaded with government to institute investigations into the matter, saying punitive action should be taken against the perpetrators.
“I am shocked. (I) saw how they came here with the babies. In all 80 something years of my life, this is the first time I see this. I am concerned about parents of these young mothers. Here, something is wrong. Where is the future of these girls, the future for this village?”
Mayor for Ratlou municipality, Tebogo Modise says her municipality will leave no stone unturned.
With the news sending shock-waves even to the presidency, a delegation of government officials, social workers, and police officials is this expected to be dispatched to the area.
Government is adamant that this is a tip of an iceberg.[Source: SABC News]