Not reporting child abuse leads to jail time

Little Poppie Koekemoer who was earlier beaten to death by her parents

Little Poppie Koekemoer who was earlier beaten to death by her parents

Published Jun 5, 2024


You can be imprisoned for up to five years if you fail to report suspicions of a child being sexually abused to the police, the National Prosecuting Authority has warned.

You don’t have to be directly involved or have evidence, and can report anonymously if the circumstances allow, and you don’t have to be called as a witness.

People also have a responsibility to report any suspicion of ordinary child abuse, the NPA said.

“There is no room for you to use your discretion. There are three legislations at play compelling you to report to the South African Police Service (SAPS), irrespective of whether you think the children are too young or there might not be a case. It is up to the police to investigate all allegations,” Advocate Salome Scheepers said.

Scheepers is the Senior State Advocate at the Sexual Offence and Community Affairs Unit (SOCA) of the NPA, and tasked as portfolio manager for domestic violence.

Scheepers addressed MISA, the Motor Industry Staff Association, during its third webinar held to educate the union’s more than 65 000 members during Child Protection Week.

This year’s theme is “every conversation matters”.

MISA designed the webinar series to educate its members on subjects they frequently sought advice about.

Scheepers addressed the consequences that people face if they don’t adhere to the mandatory reporting of abuse, neglect, and exposure to domestic violence or sexual assault of children.

Failure to adhere to the legislation is punishable with between three to five years imprisonment, depending on the kind of abuse that is not reported.

Scheepers referred to the child abuse case of Poppie Koekemoer who was only three years old when she died in October 2016, in Brits. She had been abused for eight months by her mother and stepfather.

“In her case the Judge ruled that everyone involved had to be investigated for their failure to report the abuse to the police,” Scheepers said.

According to Scheepers, the Constitution protects the rights of children, but the reality was that the majority of children suffered abuse from those responsible to care for them in their own homes.

“Child abuse is not just a social ill, it is a pervasive crisis that affects the very foundation of our communities, families, and most importantly, our children,” Scheepers said.

She added that it was our collective responsibility to act, intervene, and protect those who cannot protect themselves.

“Children represent the future. They are our hope, our potential, and our tomorrow.”

Scheepers explained that when a child was abused, it was not just their present that was shattered but their future was also jeopardized.

“By reporting child abuse, we take the first crucial step in breaking this cycle, offering victims a chance to heal and lead healthy, productive lives.”

Scheepers said every report made was a step towards saving a child’s life, a step towards restoring their dignity, and a step toward building a future where every child can grow up safe, loved and free from harm.

In sentencing Poppie’s mother, Louisa Koekemoer and her husband, Kobus Koekemoer in 2018 to life imprisonment, Gauteng High Court Judge Bert Bam had strong words for the authorities in Orania, where the family had lived for a while.

The judge noted that no one - from teachers, doctors to social workers - had lifted a finger when they suspected the child was being abused. He had strong words for them for not acting when they saw the bruises on the child’s body over months.

Judge Bam said they had failed to protect the child and shifted the blame.

A pathologist counted at least 25 new and old wounds on Poppie’s body when Kobus rushed her to the emergency unit of a hospital in Brits after she stopped breathing at home.

By that time she was already dead.

Pretoria News

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