Pretoria - South Africa’s estimated rate of child homicide is more than double the global average, says a study published in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Bulletin released this week.
In 2009, 5.5 among every 100 000 children under 18 were killed. This was double the WHO estimate of 2.4 murders among every 100 000 children, but closer to the rate in other sub-Saharan countries.
The samples were from South Africa’s state-run mortuaries between January and December 2009. The WHO conducted a retrospective study of female and child homicide cases.
“The epidemiology of child homicides in South Africa” is the first such study in South Africa.
Most of the 1 018 children killed in 2009 were boys.
The authors also said South Africa was in desperate need of policies that adequately addressed the problem of male teenage violence.
Child abuse and neglect were found to be related in three quarters of all murders of girls. Overall, most murders involving children under 18 were in public spaces (45.9 percent) or in the child’s home (34 percent) and girls (44 percent) were more likely than boys (28 percent) to be killed at home.
The study also found that nearly half the murdered children were being cared for by a single mother (43 percent), while 29.8 percent were being cared for by both parents. Nearly a third (30 percent) were killed by their mothers and 35.5 percent by someone they knew.
The study found that stab wounds and blunt force trauma were found to be the cause of death in more than half the cases looked at. Stab wounds were more common as the cause of death among boys than among girls. Infant abandonment was the most common cause among girls.
There was a high rate of child murders involving sexual assault. This reflected the high prevalence of sexual violence in the country.
Previous studies have shown that even in settings where poverty is not prevalent, child abuse cannot be prevented. The problems were also found in other African countries. Researchers came to the conclusion that the high rate reflected the country’s high murder rate as well as children’s vulnerable position in society.
Meanwhile, more than 800 000 South Africa children are involved in child labour, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant has revealed.
“The number of children involved in child labour seems to have fallen over the years. But this is cold comfort as the number of children affected remains unacceptably high at an estimated 821 000.”
Oliphant was speaking at the commemoration of National Day Against Child Labour in Badplaas, Mpumalanga. She said the day should serve as a sign of the department’s commitment to stopping all forms of child labour.
South Africa had adopted a child labour programme of action to help prevent, reduce, and eventually eliminate the problem, Oliphant said.
“Since the first adoption of the programme, our country has made significant strides towards achieving this goal. There has been a significant expansion of measures to relieve household poverty, which is the main driver of child labour.
“Legislation to address child labour has been strengthened substantially and social grants have been increased.”
In a Statistics SA survey in 2010, it was found girls were more likely than boys to be affected by child labour. In 2006, gender made little difference. In 2010 and 2006, children aged between 10 and 15 were the most likely to be involved in child labour, Oliphant said.
The third global conference on child labour will be held in Brazil in October.
Here are some of the children who were murdered in Pretoria and surrounding areas in recent years:
* Danielle Gaysman, 9.
Danielle Gaysman’s body was found in a chest freezer in Eersterus after her mother reported her missing. The little girl’s stepfather - a former teacher and part-time coach - confessed that he had crushed her skull and jaw with a spanner out of rage and stuck her body in the freezer. He was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment.
* Sisters Joy Mpanyane, 6,and Priscilla Mpanyane, 7.
Joy and Priscilla Mpanyane were found dead in the back seat of a blue Golf in December 16, 2011, dressed in matching pink polka dot dresses. The car was spotted by a Kameelfontein couple. Their father became the primary suspect for the murders.
* Masego Kgomo, 10.
Masego Kgomo disappeared from her home in Shoshanguve on New Year’s Eve in 2009. She was found, covered in a thick blanket, in a stretch of veld near the Soshanguve train station. Her genitals had been removed. Brian Mangwale, 30, from Soshanguve was sentenced to six years for kidnapping and life imprisonment for murder. It is alleged that he and his co-conspirators, ranging in age from 15 to 35, killed Masego and mutilated her body for muti.
* Sheldean Human, 7.
The badly decomposed body of blue-eyed Sheldean Human was found in a ditch near a Pretoria market on March 5, 2007.
Her mother had reported her missing two weeks earlier. Nine days into the manhunt police found a pink T-shirt and pink panties which Sheldean’s mother confirmed belonged to her daughter. Andrew Jordaan, 35, who was often seen playing with the girl, was sentenced to life in prison for rape, murder and assault.
* Connie Ncube, 4.
Toddler Connie Ncube was found lying face-down in a stream near Nellmapius in February, 2006, about 16km from her home. Her eyelids, lips, chin, nipples, belly button, and one little finger had been cut off. Hairdresser Lourenco Eric Ngoveni from Nellmapius became the primary suspect and was charged with murder, kidnapping and violating a corpse. The charges against him were later withdrawn.
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