The People’s Commission of inquiry

Addressing the scourge of child murders in the Western Cape 

Young children hold posters during a memorial service for three-year-old Liam Petersen around the corner from where he lived and was killed. Photos: Brenton Geach. Credits to Ground Up

The People’s Commission of inquiry into child safety  in the Western Cape was initiated by Prof Valdi Van Reenen Leroux, Executive Director of the Cape Town Trauma Centre (Full report at the end) 

The Child Protection Collaborative has been involved in facilitating community engagement  throughout the process since 2017, to ensure that as many community-based voices can be included in the civil society response during public-participation opportunities. 

In July the CPC was represented by several members at the Parliamentary hearings:

Meeting Summary

The Committee convened to hear about the scourge of child murders in the Western Cape. Various organisations and members of the public made their submissions and voiced their concerns. All the organisations that presented shared the same sentiments and concerns regarding child murders.

The Children’s Institute of the University of Cape Town spoke about the Child Death Review Project. The child murder rate stood at 5.5 per 100 000 children under 18 years in South Africa. 45% of children were killed in the context of child abuse and neglect and almost 74% of fatal child abuse cases were under five years. The study statistics revealed that child homicides were a low priority for police due to the lack of co-ordination between health, police and social services which compromised the outcome of management of child abuse deaths.

Cases reviewed by the Western Cape Child Death Review (CDR) teams in 2018 numbering 1 594 with shockingly 299 stemming from murders. 16% were accidents while 12% remained undetermined. The top ten police stations in the City of Cape Town that recorded child murder cases were Delft (18 cases) followed by Mfuleni (17) and Gugulethu (15). The role of men, in particular the mother’s partner and relatives/known men to the child take on prominent role in the murder of children in the murder of both girl and boy children. One in 10 child murders are associated with rape mainly perpetrated by a known male and mainly a problem affecting girls.

In terms of criminal justice, the National Prosecuting Authority has prioritised child murders since the start of the CDR process. Prosecutorial decisions were now taken sooner and police investigations guided by the NPA were prioritised much earlier than before. It has become evident that there is now speedy finalisation of child death matters.

With the Western Cape Minister present, the Department of Social Development (DSD) provided child death statistics over a five year period.

Non-governmental organisations such as Molo Songolo, Jelly Beanz: Hope for Children, Trauma Centre and Connect Network shared the same concerns about the scourge of child murders in the Western Cape. A young schoolgirl named Aaliyah spoke about the dangers she faces living in Atlantis.

Members sought clarity on the statistics for child killings and what caused the increase in the numbers; whether the department together with stakeholders ran a programme addressing child abuse; measures and plans available to mitigate this as it is clear that there are minimal efforts by SAPS to combat crimes committed against children; whether there is a joint structure where the relevant stakeholders met to discuss issues affecting children; whether there is an inter-departmental approach to prevent child deaths and child abuse; and when did the NPA investigations start on child murders.

The Committee agreed that in its next meeting on child matters, children would be invited to speak for themselves. The Committee would schedule an afternoon session or hold the meeting on the weekend to avoid disrupting children from attending school. The Committee would meet at the earliest convenience to deal with the matter of the Children’s Commissioner. 

The Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture is a non-governmental human rights organisation that utilises inclusive evidence-based healing processes to address the psychosocial needs of our multiply wounded society.

The  Trauma Centre is a founding member of the Child Protection Collaborative 

The Trauma Centre – For Survivors of       Violence and Torture

Further reading:

See meeting report here

Read the full People’s Commission of Inquiry here

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