Forum calls for an end to child violence

The panel at the Child Protection Forum are, from left, Lorenzo Davids, CEO of Community Chest; Eric Atmore, director of the Centre for Early Childhood Development at UCT, Andrew Lyon, chairperson of the provincial community policing forum board; Valdosti Van Reenen-Le Roux, director of the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture; Lillian Masesbenza, director of Mhani Ginghi Social Entrepreneur Network; Luncinda Evans, director of Philisa Abafazi Bethu and Warrant Officer Avron Petersen of the SAPS Family, Child and Sexual Offences Unit.

“Right now, while we are sitting here, a child could be getting hurt, or even killed. And if this happens again on our watch, we have failed our children.”

These were the words of Lorenzo Davids, CEO of the CBD-based Community Chest, at a Child Protection Forum meeting at St George’s Cathedral on Friday June 23.

It was attended by a number of NGOs and stakeholders in the social development and child protection sector to establish a plan of action to end child violence.

It was reported that 26 children were murdered in South Africa so far, and stakeholders have called on Premier Helen Zille to lodge a commission of inquiry into child murders in the Western Cape to formulate a sustainable plan to protect children.

And while it was said at the meeting that the premier’s office had rejected the commission of inquiry, it seemed that the provincial government, in fact, had plans to support the venture.

Ms Zille’s spokesman, Michael Mpofu, said supporting children and families was the largest single item in the social development department’s annual budget, and that, this year, the programmes for children and families had received R651.5 million.

“This figure encompasses funding and support to just under 420 NGOs working in the early childhood development, child and youth care centres and drop-in centres that render critical child protection services, and a range of therapeutic services rendered by social workers,” he said.

Additionally, the provincial government was also finalising a policy to guide the development of legislation for the appointment of a children’s commissioner. This policy would inform the function and role of the proposed commissioner and enable the process to move forward, said Mr Mpofu.

At the meeting, Warrant Officer Avron Petersen of SAPS’ Bellville Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences office, said the main factors which influenced child abuse were poverty, and traumatic encounters in a perpetrator’s life which had not been properly dealt with.

“We try to create awareness at schools, churches and homes in communities. We also patrol spots where crimes against children happen so that it is prevented.

“We sometimes go out to nightclubs to check if there are any under-aged children there.”

He said, however, it was very difficult to prevent crimes perpetrated inside the victim’s home. “Most times, the perpetrators are known to the children, or are even related,” he pointed out, encouraging people to report violent crimes to their local police station.

Lucinda Evans, the founder of Philisa Abafazi Bethu in Lavender Hill, said she started the organisation seven years ago because she was tired of seeing women and children being abused, and little or nothing being done by authorities to give them justice.

“Jeremiah Ruiters, who was murdered, allegedly by his mother’s boyfriend; Maximo and Octavia Deus Yela, murdered allegedly by their father in Hout Bay; a 48-year-old taxi driver, sentenced to only 15 years for raping an eight-year old child for years; Rene Roman, who went missing in our community – she was found murdered.

“Our children are not getting justice, and their parents are waiting for closure,” she said.