Cape Town - Statistics reveal that more than 2 600 children were murdered in the country over the last three years - 5% of all murders.
Furthermore, children were the victims in 41% of the 124 526 rapes reported in the same period.
“These statistics are disturbing at the very least, and likely to worsen given the numerous crises within the SAPS leadership. It is clear that without political will, the police will continue to fail in its mandate to ensure the reduction of the country’s unacceptably high levels of crime and (to protect) all South Africans, especially children,” DA MP Zakhele Mbhele said. He had received the statistics in a reply to a parliamentary question.
Mbhele said drastic action had to be taken against the senseless loss of life and the brutal murders of children.
NGO Save The Children said the statistics are shocking.
“We are aware of the rates of abuse, but people are not disgusted by it enough to take action. Some of these children are killed by the people they know,” said Save The Children chief executive Gugu Ndebele.
She said this was a clear indication that the police were not adequately equipped to deal with violence against children.
“We need to have trained police officers to deal with child violence because when a child reports that they have been hit or raped, in many cases the police don’t know what to do.”
Ndebele briefed Parliament earlier this week on a study it conducted in 2015 which showed how social and health issues could be traced back to violence experienced in childhood. Its research found that 55% of children have been physically abused by caregivers.
“We pleaded with Parliament to assist us in working together to stop this because I think there is something seriously wrong with our moral compass,” she said.
Director of the UCT Children’s Institute Professor Shanaaz Matthews said violence against children could not be managed from a criminal justice perspective.
“It is multifaceted and requires a response from a range of actors. For example, a child often discloses abuse after months (often a normal response) for fear of being blamed, or after being threatened not to tell - medical evidence is absent as the injuries have healed, but the trauma remains and the family dynamics need to be handled,” Matthews said.
She said child murders were complex. “South Africa has the highest reported rate of child murder (5.5/100000 children under the age of 18 years) globally. We also have different forms of murder of children - we have a huge problem of infanticide (a baby being killed shortly after birth).
“Not much is know about the reason for this type of killing, but internationally we know it is linked to mental health of mothers who do not receive attention during pregnancy.”
Stefanie Röhrs, senior researcher at the Children’s Institute, said: “One problem is that the existing laws and policies are not implemented. Police officers, health professionals and social workers are not adequately trained on laws and policies, and in many instances fail to collaborate in cases of child abuse.
“Another problem is that certain forms of violence against children - for instance, physical and emotional violence - are often perpetrated by parents, caregivers and other relatives, as well as teachers and are not reported and disclosed,”
Police spokesperson Novela Potelwa said police, through the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit), prioritised all cases of violence against children. “These specialist investigators undergo intensive training programmes as the SAPS realises that crime patterns change and the response needs to match the shifts in trends.
“However, we have noted how complex violence targeting children is. It is on this basis we advocate a multi-sectoral, inclusive response to the scourge of violence against children,” she said.
Sihle Ngobese, spokesperson for Social Development MEC Albert Fritz, said services to children and families remained the department’s largest spending and focus area, and in the new financial year the department had increased its budget by R38 million to R694.2 million.