IN THE past couple of months we have seen the brutal rape and murder of 13-year old Rene Roman (Lavender Hill) and 11-year old Stacha Arendz (Tafelsig), the murder of 14-month old Lindokuhle Kota, the murder of 4-year old Iyapha Yamile, and recently the discovery of 3-year old Courtney Pieters’ body in a field near her home.
This week – May 28 to June 4 – has been national Child Protection Week. It calls on us to take a stand against all forms of child neglect, abandonment, abuse, and murder. Child protection is everyone’s business, especially in the context of an extremely violent society.
South Africa sees 51 murders per day, a figure more the preserve of a dysfunctional state like Venezuela, than a functioning constitutional democracy.
Study findings released last year by the Medical Research Council (MRC) through their own analysis of data, found a young child is killed in South Africa each day.
The study revealed the first six days of life are the period with the highest risk for children under the age of 5 years. The data indicated more than half (53.2%) of the children were killed within the first month of their lives, and nearly two thirds of the children (74.4%) were killed while they were infants.
If this is applied to the whole population, it would essentially give South Africa a neo-naticide rate (murder within the first 28 days of life) of 19 per 100 000 live births, and an infanticide rate of 28 per 100 000 live births. By way of comparison, in the US, which is said to lead Western nations in child murder rates, the rate was reported to be 7.3 per 100 000 in 2013.
It is clear South Africa has a shocking rate of unnatural death of children. The reasons cited by researchers are varied. However the abandonment of children was the biggest cause, accounting for 84.9% of neo-naticides. This is often overlooked as opposed to more high-profile incidents such as those involving active violence inflicted on children.
Child murders are not the only concern. My department keeps a record of reported cases of child abuse in the Western Cape. These include; sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, child abandonment, child neglect.
Last year, 4 519 cases were dealt with by the department.
The state’s social work infrastructure and Children’s Courts ensure each case is dealt with meticulously in terms of the Children’s Act.
In many of the reported cases police have made arrests, and suspects are currently before the courts. In many of these incidents, including the cases of child murder, the alleged perpetrators and suspects were men and women who were known, and possibly trusted, by the victim. This is nothing short