By CLayton Barnes
A lack of adequate government resources could result in a complete failure of the national sex offenders register despite the long-awaited Sexual Offences Bill being close to promulgation.
The bill, currently before the National Council of Provinces, provides for a national register of known paedophiles to be made available and updated regularly for public viewing.
Although the names of sentenced child killer Theunis Olivier and other paedophiles will appear on such a register once the bill is approved, experts warned the state needed a "good circle of professionals" to monitor the list.
A leading health and justice expert who was involved with drafting the proposed bill said the register, although a "fantastic tool" could flop completely without proper resources.
Lillian Artz, director of the University of Cape Town's Gender, Health and Justice Unit, said she was not entirely convinced establishing a national register was the way to go for South Africa.
"It's a great way to identify and monitor paedophiles, but I don't think the government has the capacity to pull it off," said Artz. "If we look at the United States, their paedophile register is working because they have a group of social workers, police, probation officers and law professionals employed to monitor it.
"When there's a circle of people continually monitoring the register it's very difficult for listed paedophiles to lie about their exact location, where they work and who they are with. I don't think it's going to be easy for our government to monitor all these things. It's not just about slapping a list together; it's about monitoring every individual on that list."
Artz said the body commissioned to establish the register should also see that convicted paedophiles were kept away from children after serving jail sentences.
"Things often fall through the cracks, and that's when the problems start," she said. "If the paedophiles are not monitored closely they could end up working with children again."
Meanwhile discussions between the departments of justice and social development continue as to whether the Child Protection Register, under the Children's Act, which also names those guilty of sexual and other crimes against children, should fall under the proposed Sexual Offences Bill.