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Cape Town - Children as young as 14, 15 and 16 were being arrested on charges of murder, attempted murder and the unlawful possession of firearms in the city’s gang hot spots.
Police have expressed concern at the growing number of children becoming involved in gang violence.
Since the beginning of the year, police have arrested three 16-year-olds on charges of murder.
Three 17-year-olds and one 15-year-old have been arrested for attempted murder
A 14-year-old, a 15-year-old, two 16-year-olds, four of the age of 17 and one aged 18 were arrested for the unlawful possession of firearms, said police spokesman Tembinkosi Kinana.
Mitchells Plain police station commander Brigadier Johan Brand called for the community, the police and the state to address the root causes of crime. “We cannot allow more of our 15 and 16-year-old sons to be arrested on murder charges. What future do children like these have?” he said.
Brand said there should be a concerted effort to address crime and its root causes.
“A start should be a change in the socio-economic conditions of the youth in Mitchells Plain,” he said.
“After all, they are not aliens from space but were created by mothers and fathers staying in Mitchells Plain who need to educate their children in the right norms and values of society.”
The announcement by Police Minister Nathi Mtethwa that a multi-faceted approach in dealing with gang violence was needed would help the police tremendously, Kinana said.
“The Child Justice Act puts in place a criminal justice system which caters for children under the age of 18 years,” he said.
“One of the aspects in the Child Justice Act is the issue of the criminal capacity of children.”
According to the act, children up to the age of 10 lack criminal capacity and may not be arrested for committing an offence. In these cases, children will be referred to children’s courts or to the Department of Social Development.
Children from 11 years of age and up to 14 have criminal capacity, but the onus rests with the State to prove criminal capacity on the part of the child accused of having committed a crime.
Children above 14 years of age have criminal capacity unless otherwise proven.