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‘Western Cape is the most dangerous place for childre...

South Africa

CHILD MURDERS

‘Western Cape is the most dangerous place for children’

In the 2017/2018 financial year, 985 children were murdered nationally – 279 in the Western Cape. In 2016/2017, 179 children were murdered in the province. (Photo: Evelyn Bertrand / Unsplash)

Gang violence and interpersonal conflict are among the biggest contributors to child murders in the Western Cape. The issue came under the spotlight on Tuesday morning in the provincial legislature.

A young schoolgirl named Aaliyah sat in a chamber full of members of the Western Cape legislature, along with representatives from children’s rights groups across the province. Aaliyah, identifiable only by her first name, was dressed in her school uniform and told the audience about the dangers she faces walking to and from school in Atlantis. Because it is unsafe for her to walk alone, she walks with another schoolgirl.

We walk through the [housing] scheme and it’s dangerous for us because there’s gangsters sitting there,” she said.

Aaliyah was addressing the Western Cape Standing Committee on Social Development, which met on Tuesday 30 July to discuss child murders in the province. In the 2017/2018 financial year, 985 children were murdered nationally – 279 in the Western Cape. In 2016/2017, 179 children were murdered in the province.

Aaliyah was a member of a delegation from Molo Songololo, a non-profit child protection organisation.

Molo Songololo’s Salome McLeod told the legislature: “The Western Cape had the highest number of children killed than any other province… the Western Cape is the most dangerous place for children than any other province.”

McLeod said the killers of children were often caregivers, family members, people known to the child, gangsters, partners and neighbours. Underlying causes of child murders are neglect, carelessness, abuse, violence and crime. McLeod said substance abuse and gangsterism also contributed.

Curbing the incidence of child murders required increased community policing, improvement of police investigations and arrests, effective prosecutions and sentencing of criminals.

Professor Shanaaz Mathews, director of the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town said data from the Child Death Review Project defined child murder as “the unnatural death of a child under the age of 18 for which another person was responsible”.

According to her team’s research, most child murders were reported at three police stations in Cape Town: Delft (18 cases), Mfuleni (17 cases) and Gugulethu (15). Twelve cases were reported at the Harare police station and nine at the Khayelitsha police station, which meant that overall Khayelitsha had 21 reported cases of child murder in the 2017-2018 financial year.

Mathews said numbers might be higher since some “deaths occur in hospitals” and not in areas where the cases are reported. One of the biggest issues was the incidence of murders of young males. According to Mathews’ data, the Tygerberg Mortuary received the corpses of 79 murdered males between the ages of 13 and 17 in the 2017-2018 financial year.

Large numbers of young men are killed yearly,” said Mathews, who added that gang violence and peer-on-peer violence are the major risks facing young men. These risks are increased through the availability of weapons.

Alcohol and drug use and abuse fuel violence,” said Mathews.

The chair of the Standing Committee on Social Development, Gillion Bosman, said he would convene another meeting with stakeholders, including children, where their concerns and solutions will be heard. DM

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