Following widespread calls for decisive action to address the senseless child killings in the province,
Premier Helen Zille will convene a meeting of NGOs specializing in child protection. More than 20 children have been murdered in the Western Cape since the start of the year, and in most cases, the girls were raped. The pattern emerging from incidents in the Western Cape – in almost all cases – is that perpetrators are known, and usually trusted, by the victim and their families.
“I will now convene a meeting of stakeholders who are actively involved in child safety issues. I will also seek their response to my proposal for an in-depth expert study into six child murder cases. This study will help us to determine whether a formal commission of inquiry is an appropriate step, or whether there are other, more effective steps the provincial government can take within its constitutional mandate, to help prevent child murders,” said Premier Zille.
Perpetrators have ranged from neighbours, landlords, lodgers, ex-boyfriends and even the fathers of the victims. Many perpetrators were under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they committed their crimes. Some acted out of revenge against a partner (or former partner).
The study would document what is known about each case, analyse the details, and use comparable international studies to recommend solutions.
But the director of the Trauma Centre in Cape Town, Valdi Van Reenen, has challenged Zille’s proposal for the in-depth study, instead pressing for the commission of enquiry to be urgently established. She said this decision was taken by a collective of NGOS at previous meetings and was communicated to Zille’s department.
She has questioned why the provincial government wants to look at only six cases, which vary in nature.
“We have picked up a trend where the girl child has been raped, kidnapped or murdered. The boy child has been shot or stabbed fatally, mostly due to criminality and gangsterism. Some boys are innocent and others are perpetrators of other gang related violence,” she explained.
“For us to take six cases that are sub-judice and subject to justice processes, we are asking what use would that be? How do you choose…on the basis of what?”
Van Reneen was also critical of Zille’s call for a meeting of specialist child protection organisations.
“This is not an issue for certain NGO’s. We need to collaborate together. Civil society needs to be careful that it is not divided on this issue. We need to unify. Our children lack safety!”
This week, the Trauma Centre hosted an open dialogue involving various role players in the child protection sector, including NGOs, civil society, activists, SAPS and business. One of the outcomes of the discussion was a petition, which will be sent to Parliament. 3000 people have so far signed the petition, and it was submitted to the Western Cape Petitions Committee. There are hopes the matter will be debated on Parliament.
Meanwhile the Western Cape Government said continues to facilitate extensive programmes aimed at child protection and welfare. The provincial government has a network of 420 NGOs operating within a combination of ECD centres, Child & Youth Care Centres, and drop-in centres that provide critical child protection services.
Currently, there 36 social development local offices, six district offices, 61 Child & Youth Care Centres, 190 child protection organisations with service delivery offices across the province, and 16 shelters for victims of abuse.
“The budget for child protection in the Department of Social Development tops R1-billion if the full operational requirements of these services are factored in, including the salaries of 1,510 social workers,” said Zille.
There are 35,000 children under the department’s watch in alternative care placements, and a further 80,000 children in 1,100 ECDs funded by the department.
“But one thing I know for sure: no government can substitute for the role of committed families and communities in protecting children. In the end, a culture of active, responsible citizenship is indispensable to building a functional society that cares for its most vulnerable members,” Zille said. VOC