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Minister warns on fire risk for kids

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Copy of ct Virginia Petersen 6194

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Elaine Steneberg is comforted by Sassa executive director Virginia Petersen, middle, and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. Steneberg's two grandchildren died in a shack fire. Photo: Bheki Radebe

 

Cape Town - More would be done to protect children falling prey to violence, particularly in communities where abuse, neglect and rape were rife, said Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini.

She visited Delft on Sunday – the launch site of this year’s Child Protection Week which is commemorated annually to raise awareness of the rights of children.

Dlamini said that this week her department would evaluate the work of institutions which protected children and also look at new problems which emerged as a result of a changing society.

“We have tabled a White Paper on families which puts forward proposals on how South African families should be supported in order to flourish and function optimally. The paper views family as a key development imperative and seeks to mainstream family issues into government-wide policy initiatives,” she said.

On Friday – two days before the start of CPW – two children living in a backyard dwelling in Delft died in a fire which destroyed their shack.

The children, Alfonzo Solomon, 6, and his brother Marshall, 5, were left unattended by their grandmother who went to buy food.

Visiting the site on Sunday, Dlamini said the children might have survived the fire if they had not been left alone.

“Reports about the fire shows a lack of a support system for both the children and the grandmother. Had a proper family support system been in place, there would have been no need to leave the children locked up and unattended, and they might have survived the fire,” said Dlamini.

The boys’ grandmother and foster mother, Elaine Steneberg, wept as she recalled details about the night she left the boys at home.

 

Their mother, Steneberg said, was a substance abuser who had never been there for the children.

“I have looked after them since they were babies,” she said. “On Friday, they went to sleep early and I decided to collect a food parcel, just down the road.

“When I was being served at the counter, the neighbour ran to me and told me my house was on fire.”

 

Steneberg and Solomon were staying at their church pastor’s home until she was able to get back on her feet.

Dlamini said households headed by grandparents were an increasing trend in South Africa, and the trend could be avoided.

On Sunday, she offered to help get Steneberg’s daughter into a counselling programme.

“I want to urge people not to leave their children alone. It is unfortunate that such young lives had to be lost this way. Our thoughts are with the family,” Dlamini said.

francesca.villette@inl.co.za

Cape Times


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