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Parliament, Cape Town - Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini battled on Wednesday to explain why there were fewer than 500 offenders' names on the Child Protection Register (CPR).
Responding to a question in the National Assembly, she told MPs the names of people convicted of crimes against children were entered into the register.
The CPR was established in 2005. It requires that people “deemed unsuitable to work with or have contact with children” have their names added to the list, to ensure children are protected.
Democratic Alliance MP Mike Waters was not satisfied with Dlamini's reply.
In a follow-up question to the minister, he told the House that the quality of her reply “reflects the quality of the information on the Child Protection Register: absolutely non-existent”.
The Children's Act states that a person could be found unsuitable to work with children if convicted of “murder, attempted murder, rape, indecent assault and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm with regards to children”.
Waters said it was clear the intention of the act was to ensure “automatic findings of unsuitability, and immediate placement 1/8of names 3/8 on the Child Protection Register”
But this was not happening.
“Minister, you and your department continue to fail our children by ensuring that all those guilty of these heinous crimes do not appear on the 1/8register 3/8. That's why we have under 500 names on this list. Can you explain to this House why this is the case?”
Dlamini, to loud heckling from opposition benches, said government believed “we are doing our best to tackle the issues of children”.
The protection of children was not about “having laws and laws and laws”. It was about ensuring communities took care of children, “because it's not only the responsibility of government to look after children”.
She said her department was trying to link the CPR with a register maintained by the department of justice.
“Because that is where the problem is.”
Dlamini warned that government had to be “very careful” about the names placed on the register, because the state could be sued if this information was not correct.
At this point, DA Chief Whip Watty Watson leaped to his feet and called on Speaker Max Sisulu to compel Dlamini to explain why there were less than 500 names on the CPR.
“With respect, the minister is not answering the... question. She's engaging in debate. Please ask her to answer 1/8it 3/8,” Watson said.
Sisulu responded: “The Speaker can't dictate how a minister answers questions.”
In August last year, the DA filed a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission, claiming the government had failed to implement the CPR.
Earlier this year, SAHRC spokesman Isaac Mangena said the complainant had alleged there was a failure by government “to properly implement the CPR in terms of populating and updating the register... .”
According to one Cape Town newspaper on Wednesday, “crimes against minors 1/8are 3/8 on the rise”.
In a front-page report, under the headline “Child Rape Outrage”, it referred to the “unnerving increase in the number of child rapes”. - Sapa