One out of every three child murders happen in the Western Cape, and a report released earlier this month by a District Six-based non profit looks at why that is.
The Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture released the findings of its People’s Commission of Inquiry (PCOI) into Child Safety in the Western Cape on August 8.
According to police statistics, 279 of the 985 child murders committed across South Africa last year happened in the province.
It’s a grim figure that has many asking why the Western Cape is such a dangerous place to be a child.
Trauma Centre’s executive director, Valdi van Reenen-le Roux, says the commission of inquiry went looking for answers to that question from children themselves.
The Trauma centre heard from more than 1 800 children while so-called “people’s commissioners”, Dr Llewellyn Macmaster, Lorna Houston and Glenda Wildshut, took testimonies from parents who had lost children to violence as well as community organisations and ward councillors.
The centre hopes the report, which is not legally binding, will put pressure on authorities to act. It makes a flurry of recommendations on how to stem the tide of child murders, and calls for the immediate appointment of a child commissioner in the province.
Ms Van Reenen-le Roux said her organisation had lobbied provincial government for three years to conduct a child commission of inquiry into child safety in the province but had been told it would be too costly.
Gangsterism, school safety, social housing, health, poverty, the justice system, physical abuse, child trafficking and rape are just some issues covered by the report.
The 1 890 children who recorded their experiences on cards came from Salt River, Manenberg, Hanover Park, Khayelitsha, Bonteheuwel and Maitland. Extracts from 50 of those testimonies are included in the 80-page report.
“Why should my home be like Pollsmoor?” writes one. “Children have a right to safe schools”, “Gangsterism is taking over our community,” say others, and so it goes.
Natasha Hendricks, from Newlands, gave testimony and is still grieving her son, Nathaniel,14, who was shot dead in Mitchell’s Plain in May last year.
“I am still struggling to deal with it every day, so all I can say to moms who experienced this pain is to trust in God and appreciate the little things, especially if you have more kids,” she said.
The PCOI report describes how young Nathaniel was caught in the crossfire between rival gangs.
Lesley Wyngaard, from the Alcardo Andrews Foundation: Moms Move for Justice, is frustrated that the justice system could not convict her alleged son’s murderer. Rory, 23, was shot dead three years ago in Mitchells Plain while leaving a nightclub. Ms Wyngaard believes her son’s killer got off because of shoddy police work and a poor job by the prosecutor.
“My hope is through my experience, I can support other mothers to ensure that their cases are not dismissed and that they get justice for their children,” she said.
Western Cape premier, Alan Winde said earlier this year that he hoped a child commissioner – to lobby for and protect children’s rights – would be appointed in the province before the end of the year. (“Keeping children safe,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, June 6)
This report’s publication costa were covered by private donors and will be made available on the Trauma Centre’s website at a later stage.