Protecting our children

By Dr Ntombifuthi Nala/sites/default/files/pictures/Ntombifuthi%20Nala-7519.jpg

The spate of abuse and killings of children such as the brutal murder and mutilation last year of six-year-old Tshiamo Rabanye and his five-year-old friend Mduduzi Zulu in Johannesburg brings into sharp focus the level of violence that threatens our children.

This horrific incident and many recent others like it highlights that more needs to be urgently done to strengthen our fight to protect our children against abuse. It is not enough to simply express our shock or condemnation at these atrocious crimes.

There is a desperate need for united action so that we create safer living spaces where children can freely grow, play and develop. Therefore let us mobilise all sectors and communities towards development, care and protection of our children.

The strengthening of families and communities is the first line of response to child protection. Through a community-based prevention and early intervention programme called RISIHA we aim to achieve this. The programme is supported by social service professionals who render direct, day to day, prevention, early intervention and care and support services.

It is among the measures we have put in place to make it as easy as possible for children to seek help against abuse or exploitation.  The programme takes forward government’s zero-tolerance approach towards child abuse.

As a country we have adopted legislation and policies to ensure that our children are treated fairly and with respect. We have intensified the fight against abuse by implementing the Bill of Rights which states that every child has the right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation.

Our law enforcement agencies and courts are empowered through the Child Justice Act and the Sexual Offenses and Related Matters Amendment Act to hold those who infringe on children’s rights to account.

Our Family Violence Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units have dedicated investigators and other resources that are assigned to cases where children are affected by violence. These units ensure sound investigations, competent prosecutions and victim support.

Through these various initiatives government is ensuring that it is building a victim-centred criminal justice system. Cases that come before the court are treated with the necessary sensitivity so that victims do not experience secondary victimisation.

Government however, cannot eradicate the scourge of child abuse and neglect on its own. These vile acts often occur in homes behind closed doors where children should feel safe, nurtured and cared for.

It is therefore the duty of everyone to report those who hurt, exploit and abuse children so that they can be arrested and convicted. It could be your actions today that helps break the cycle of violence and abuse for someone in your community.

Our children deserve better, their fragile nature needs to be handled with care by both parents and the community. As South Africans we must uphold the rights of children and never allow ourselves to normalise abuse.

Inspired by our stalwart Nelson Mandela, who had a deep love for children, let us take an active role to protect them as he would have. He said that in doing so “they will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth who care for and protect our people”.