TRAUMATIC MOMENT: Children place flowers at the site where the body of Courtney Pieters was found in a shallow grave in May last year. She was raped and murdered. Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, children and community
members from Eerste River visited the crime scene.Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
Cape Town - The provincial government is edging closer to appointing a provincial children’s commissioner, but child advocacy groups are worried that such a commissioner will have little power to tackle child issues.

The Legislature’s standing committee on the premier and constitutional matters was briefed earlier this week by the Department of the Premier on the Western Cape Commissioner for Children Bill responsible for establishing a Commissioner for Children.

This comes as police reported in Parliament earlier this week that 279 children were murdered, and 2063 raped in the province in the 2017/18 financial year.

In the same period, 370 women were murdered in the province, while in total 3915 women and children were murdered across the country.

The chairperson of the committee, Daylin Mitchell, said the commissioner for children must, as per section 78 of the constitution of the Western Cape, assist the provincial government to protect and promote the interests of children in health services, education, welfare services, recreation, amenities and sport.

“The commissioner will have the power to monitor, investigate, research, educate, lobby, advise and report on children. They will also have to provide an annual report to the Legislature. We remain committed to creating safe and wholesome communities in which our children are free to play, live and grow,” Mitchell said.

But the director of the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence, Valdi van Reenen, said the bill gave little power to the commissioner.

“A penalty fine can be issued if there is no reaction on a subpoena, but that is as far as it goes. We made submissions at the very start and we see many adjustments were made in the revised bill. We are resolute that the commissioner should be totally independent, because if there is any sort of interference it will become difficult. My biggest concern is that the commissioner needs much more power than what is made in the current provisions,” she said.

ACDP MPL Ferlon Christians said the bill has been coming for years and called on the committee to speed up the process.

“The most important issue is that we protect the children at all costs. We have an abundance of child murders and rapes and in our country children are not a priority.

“We need to invest more time and resources into investigating and tackling the mitigating factors that lead to child killings. That is the only way we are going to fix the issue,” he said.

ANC MPL Cameron Dugmore said the process had been marred by several delays.

“It has been a long struggle for all of us, but we kept on pushing. The commissioner will have his or her work cut out and the ANC will be part of this process,” he said.

Public hearings will be heard in Beaufort West, George, Vredendal and Cape Town in October and November.

The public will then be invited to make written and oral submissions on the bill.

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Cape Argus