Cape Town – Violence against children in the country was at crisis levels, with one in three youngsters at risk of becoming victims of sexual assault and physical abuse before they reached 18, a government inter-ministerial committee has found.
Statistics also indicate children under the age of five were most likely to be abused and killed at home, while teenage boys were increasingly at risk of being killed in the context of male-on-male interpersonal violence.
“It’s a crisis,” deputy-director general of Social Development Conny Nxumalo said on Thursday.
“Looking at the evidence, it’s clear we are now past the time of just talking. We need to identify what the best practice is to protect our women and children going forward.”
Under the Mandela Initiative umbrella, experts gathered in Cape Town this week for what they called an “action dialogue”, which looked at how laws and their implementation could be strengthened.
According to the National Prosecuting Authority, 19 children had been killed in the Western Cape since January. This has been condemned by President Jacob Zuma.
Two Khayelitsha children were murdered recently; four-year-old Iyapha Yamile’s body was found in an informal settlement in the area at the beginning of this month, while 14-month-old Lindokuhle Kota was killed several days prior.
Stacha Arendse, 11, from Mitchells Plain and Rene Roman, 13, from Lavender Hill were murdered earlier this year.
“For me, it’s not really about the laws,” said Lucy Jamieson, a senior researcher at UCT’s Children’s Institute.
“It’s really the implementation of the laws.
"The (Courtney) Pieters case has got the country talking, and that’s good, because every week at least two rape/homicides are reported. That’s absolutely horrific,” Jamieson said.
“Social workers need training, and so do police and individuals... We need to do things differently if we are going to win this fight.”
The National Association of Child Care Workers’ deputy director, Donald Nghonyama, agreed.
“The social sector needs to come together and partner with NGOs because I don’t think we are doing enough advocacy around issues affecting children.”
Unicef SA programme’s Sinah Moruane said: “There are concrete positions we have taken to combat violence against women and children.”