By Anees Teladia
This past weekend, over 200 Western Cape children gathered to air their views at a children’s consultation workshop. The workshop was initiated to get direct feedback from children in the province, on their challenges – feedback which is to be relayed to the provincial legislature and the premier’s office for the purposes of improving child safety and security. The youth are hoping that the province will see to the appointment of a children’s commissioner sooner, rather than later.
“It was a very successful event,” said director at Molo Songololo, Patric Solomons.
“Not feeling safe in the communities is an issue which came out, lack of access to opportunities, not being able to use facilities because of safety concerns and many other problems including a lack of clean drinking water, transport to and from school and access to health services were mentioned. The children believe a commissioner can make things better and they want the law to be finalised.”
The reference to the need for the “law to be finalised” comes due to the inability to appoint a children’s commissioner until the Western Cape Commissioner for Children Act and its regulations, are finalised.
“At the moment, the Act still needs to be finalised. The regulations which assist the implementation of the Act need to be created. It [the regulations] will deal with the issues of how government departments and different bodies must relate to the commissioner and what their responsibilities would be to ensure that the commissioner can function. Once that is finalised, the provincial legislature will accept the regulations and then the date will be published in the local government gazette, stating when the Act will be coming into effect,” said Solomons.
“That process must still happen… so because the process to finalise the law is incomplete, they can’t appoint a commissioner yet.”
Solomons expressed disappointment at the lack of consistent political vigour in the process.
“On 1 June this year, the premier stated that he would like to see a commissioner appointed before the end of the year. Since then, he hasn’t made any announcement as to what actions he has taken, or has asked to be taken, to ensure that the process can be finalised as soon as possible,” said a disappointed Solomons.
“The provincial constitution makes provision for the establishment of a Western Cape commissioner for children. For many years, the provincial constitution has not been implemented…”
The public (including children) has a right to nominate individuals they would like to be considered for the Western Cape children’s commissioner position, according to Solomons.
The commissioner would assist in monitoring and improving the rights of children in the province and would therefore also be tasked with responding to the needs of children in the Western Cape, while safeguarding their interests.