Reports on Proposed Commission Inaccurate
We have noted reports about the proposed commission of inquiry into child killings in the Western Cape, by various NGO groups.
These reports, driven in the main by Independent Newspapers, are inaccurate. At the same time, the NGOs in question have not been fully frank on the outcome of a recent meeting with the Premier.
Given the gravity of the recent tragedies, all stakeholders, including the media, need to stick to the facts.
On 24 May 2017 Premier Helen Zille met representatives from several NGOs at their request, where various concerns were raised and a call made for the establishment of a commission of inquiry into child killings.
During the deliberations, several key points emerged:
A lot is already known about the circumstances in which child murders occur. The perpetrator is usually a person known to the child, often living in the same dwelling or close by, and usually a substance abuser. The exceptional difficulty of policing the actions of people who know each other, within the context of a private home, was discussed.
Before determining whether a Commission of Inquiry will help us with additional information in dealing with Child Murders, the meeting agreed that a preliminary investigation would be undertaken into six cases, identified by the NGOs who agreed to revert and motivate six separate incidents. They have not done so.
Instead they have stated publicly that the Premier refused to establish a Commission of Inquiry. This is not so. A preliminary investigation into determining whether a Commission would be likely to unearth any further information and enable us to prevent similar tragedies, is required.
A preliminary investigation is also necessary to help determine the precise terms of reference for a Commission, should there be an agreement to establish one.
Without this preliminary work we cannot justify the cost of establishing a commission, which will take many months to be established and complete its work, with clear findings and recommendations.
In contrast a task team of relevant experts, to undertake a preliminary investigation of six cases, could be established quickly and commence its work immediately.
The outcome of the analysis of a sample of cases would possibly reveal the common denominators in incidents of violence against children. This would form a basis for SAPS, government and the NGOs to work with – in formulating solutions to address the crisis. If it is felt that a Commission of Inquiry could unearth further information or add value to our efforts to prevent repeat tragedies, this can be considered.
We also discussed the use of the Community Safety Department’s extensive watching briefs programme, to monitor criminal proceedings in cases currently being investigated or before the courts.
Representatives from the NGOs agreed to consult with their organisations on the task team proposal and revert. We have not heard from them since.
Instead, we have noted persistently one-sided and inaccurate reports in Independent Newspaper titles.
In the first report, the Cape Argus failed to publish extensive comment provided to them on the matter, and have given no reasons for doing so. This would be the subject of a Press Ombudsman complaint had Independent not withdrawn all its titles from the Press Council and the accountability of the Ombud process.
At every stage, our government has cooperated in good faith, especially given the gravity of these incidents.
We remain committed to working with all interested parties to ensure a safe environment for all our children in the province.
Our support to children and families is the largest single item in our Social Development Department’s annual budget, and this year our programmes for children & families received R651.5-million. This spend stretches closer to R1 billion when one includes the staff and operations required to carry out child protection, investments in child justice and children with disabilities.
We provide funding and support to approximately 420 NGOs working in the ECD, Child & Youth Care Centres, drop-in centres that render critical child protection services, and a range of therapeutic services rendered by social workers.
The net cast by these services is wide, both from the perspective of our own services rendered through 6 regional offices and 40 local offices across the province, and through:
- 1100 ECD organisations,
- 190 Child Protection organisations,
- 64 specialist Families organisations,
- 53 Child & Youth Care Centres.
Our government is also currently in the process of finalising a policy to guide the development of legislation for the appointment of a Children’s Commissioner. This policy will inform the functions and role of the proposed Commissioner and enable the process to move forward.
It is important to note that a Commissioner cannot replace the role to be played by the various stakeholders in the development and safety of our children. This includes parents, guardians, government – schools, teachers, social workers, healthcare, the SAPS, and other bodies.
It also remains a sad fact that the police can do very little to prevent this kind of incident if the perpetrator is known or related to the parents and close to the child victim.
We believe a holistic approach is required in dealing with this scourge. Families, civil society, government, SAPS and other bodies all have a role to play in the fight. We also call on members of the public to remain vigilant at all times.