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Minister Zulu launches Child Protection Month in city

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The Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, launched Child Protection Month at the Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre in Kimberley.

The Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, during the launch of Child Protection Month at the Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre in Kimberley. Picture: Soraya Crowie

FAMILIES are the first line of defence and support in the protection of children.

This was the message preached on Sunday by the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, during the launch of Child Protection Month at the Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre in Kimberley on Sunday.

Zulu said that although there have been many successful measures implemented to ensure children’s rights and safety are preserved, there is still a grave concern about children who are being neglected, abused and killed daily.

“One of the major concerns for me is the unacceptably high levels of violence against

children in our country. We have all heard of the tragic story of six-year-old Joshlin Smith, who went missing from Saldanha Bay on February 19, 2024, and to this day has not yet been found. Joshlin’s story is the heartbreaking story of many children in our country whose rights are violated and who are robbed of their childhood,” said Zulu.

“We are also deeply concerned about the alarming number of teenage pregnancies across the country, including here in the Northern Cape, with John Taolo Gaetsewe and Frances Baard the leading districts. We must act now to stop this. While we encourage teenage mothers and fathers to remain in school and complete their studies. We must work together to stop teenage pregnancy in the first place.”

Zulu added that the online abuse of children is also one of the ills that is on the rise.

“Children today spend most of their time online. The Disrupting Harm Study shows that while the number of young children accessing the internet and new technology has grown significantly over recent years, awareness of the potential risks remains low and cases of online sexual abuse and exploitation have reportedly increased significantly.

“Addressing these real threats requires a holistic approach and commitment from all stakeholders, including parents, teachers, community-based organisations and children themselves,” she said.

The Northern Cape MEC for Social Development, Nntobeko Vilakazi, said the partnership between communities, law enforcement, non-governmental organisations and government is vital in successfully rooting out these problems.

“Everything starts at home. We need parents and community members to play their protective role in the lives of our children. We know that the perpetrators of crimes against children live in our communities – it is the family member, the teacher, the neighbour and even the parent of the child, who are supposed to have been the protectors of the child. We need our community members to sternly speak out against incidents where children are being violated and abused,” said Vilakazi.

She said the sooner these matters are reported the faster the victim can get help.

“Just last week we had to urgently intervene in a matter where we heard of a 12-year-old girl who was sexually abused by her stepfather. The matter came to light after the girl’s younger brother demonstrated the actions of the stepfather at school in the presence of a teacher. The teacher immediately reported the matter and it turned out that the girl had been sexually abused by the stepfather for years. We took both the girl and boy to a place of safety and the stepfather was arrested. What was shocking was that the stepfather showed no remorse or shame for what he did to the little girl.

“We commend everyone who played a role in ensuring that the perpetrator was stopped, however, we need such matters to be reported sooner. Communities cannot sit back and watch when they see or hear of cases where children are abused. The earlier such matters are reported, the earlier we can save the child.”

Vilakazi urged law enforcement agencies to also act with more urgency in such matters.

“These reported matters are very sensitive and some drag on for years. We have heard of many instances where cases are scrapped off the court rolls and even of cases where law enforcement officers have advised families to solve a complaint internally without opening a criminal case. Such advice puts even more confusion on an already troubling matter. That also sends the message to others that blowing the whistle on such matters is not of importance.

“We need to go back to the grassroots and see the impact these cases have on the lives of our children who are expected to be sober-minded and healthy mentally-functioning adults in the future,” Vilakazi said.

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