Teddies for Courtney Pieters, whose body was found in a shallow grave in Epping.     David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
Teddies for Courtney Pieters, whose body was found in a shallow grave in Epping. David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
Children laid flowers at the site where the body of Courtney Pieters, 3, was found after she was raped and murdered. The Minister for Community Safety in the Western Cape, Dan Plato, and community members from Eerste River paid their respects.     Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)
Children laid flowers at the site where the body of Courtney Pieters, 3, was found after she was raped and murdered. The Minister for Community Safety in the Western Cape, Dan Plato, and community members from Eerste River paid their respects. Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - The Western Cape is the most dangerous province to raise a child. In statistics released this week, the province clocked up the highest rate of child murders in the country.

Most of the crimes against children take place in the Mother City and activists are calling on the government to treat the crisis as a national disaster.

The latest crime stats show a 10.9% increase in the number of girls murdered in South Africa, up from 265 in the 2016/2017 financial year to 294 in 2017/2018, with the number of boys murdered up by 20.4% from 574 to 691, while the murder of women rose by 11% from 2639 to 2930.

The Western Cape led the pack with 279 of the total 985 child murders.

Sixty girls and 219 boys were murdered in the province between April last year and March this year.

Some 370 women of the national total of 2930 were murdered in the Western Cape.

Bernadine Bachar, director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, said the statistics for child murder in the province were “deeply disturbing”.

“Tackling the scourge is a societal challenge which begins with all of us and includes government, civil society and communities. It starts in the home with educating children about abuse, using appropriate disciplining techniques to break the cycle of violence, and offering parenting programmes to vulnerable families.”

Bachar said political will was crucial in addressing the problem.

“A multi-agency oversight body to ensure collaboration between policy- makers tasked with the prevention of violence against children and those departments responsible for the implementation of the relevant legislation and policies, such as the departments of health, police, education and social development, is needed.

“Adequate resourcing of these departmental programmes, including the establishment of a specialised SAPS unit of dedicated police officials to investigate abuse against children and collaborate with social workers, is essential, especially in poorer communities.

“It is time for all of us to stand together and declare ‘enough is enough’.”

Valdi van Reenen-Le Roux, executive director of the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture, said she was saddened but also angry.

She said most of the child murders were of boys and were “most likely linked to ongoing gang violence”.

“Our persistent calls on the Western Cape Government to establish a Provincial Commission of Inquiry into the lack of child safety has fallen on deaf ears with the Cabinet rejecting civil society’s petition.

“Given the Western Cape Legislature’s Petitions Standing Committee’s recommendation that government, together with civil society, facilitate public hearings, we have opted not to partner with government to avoid political interference in the wake of the elections in 2019.

“Instead, we are moving ahead with a People’s Commission of Inquiry in the next month because we cannot ignore our people’s pain.

She said they were equally concerned with the children injured and killed by gang violence since 2000.

“The Western Cape has the highest rate of domestic violence in the country. We cannot deal effectively with the high level of domestic and sexual violence against women and girls by simply providing victim empowerment to survivors.”

Van Reenen-Le Roux said perpetrators of this type of violence were mostly men and there were not enough programmes to rehabilitate perpetrators.

“While shelters are needed for abused women, we question the logic of removing women and children from their homes while perpetrators remain comfortably at home with no change in their behaviour, leading to a repetitive cycle of violence,” she said.

“It is time for men who abuse women and children to be sent by the courts to rehabilitative programmes, which will hopefully contribute towards reducing domestic violence.”

Weekend Argus