Gauteng Government acts to protect children
10 July 2017
The Gauteng Department of Social Development (GDSD) is the custodian of all children in the province and it is mandated by section 28 of the Constitution and the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 to safeguard children’s rights and ensure their wellbeing at all times.
As a caring government, we go beyond the legislative imperatives to deliver on this mandate because we are keenly aware that, as Oliver Tambo would put it:
“The children of any nation are its future. A country, a movement, a person that does not value its youth and children does not deserve its future.”
We do all we can to ensure that children’s basic human rights are protected and their well-being is promoted. The Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) is known for spearheading children’s rights through Bana Pele Programme (Putting Children First) and its vision of making Gauteng a Province “fit for children.”
Consequently, when we were alerted about a minor who was forced into marriage, our Social Workers investigated the matter instantly.
It is with the same vigour that we responded when we heard about children who were abducted into traditional initiation and a boy who was allegedly raped at one of our centres.
MARRIAGE OF A MINOR
On Thursday, 06 July 2017, the GDSD was contacted by the Commission for Cultural, Religion and Linguistic Communities (CRL) Chairperson Ms Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva and Ugogo Maliyavuza from the Community Councils of Traditional Healers – Ubuhlebengcice to alert us that a 17-year-old girl was staying with a 42-year-old traditional healer from Debonaire Park in the Vaal. This has been going since March 2017 after he paid a R25 000 lobola to the family. His only defense is that the child’s mother and family misled him to believing that the child was over the age of 18yrs.
We immediately removed the child from the man’s house to a place of safety. The matter has been reported to the South African Police Services (SAPS) Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual offences Unit (FCS) for abduction &/or statutory rape. The child was found to be in a good mental state, emotionally sound and clean. Social workers noted that the child expressed an intention to continue to stay with the traditional healer and that she was happy with this arranged union. The Department suspects that the child who turns 18yrs in a month’s time is indeed likely to go back to this man as soon as she reaches 18year (Age of maturity). At the time of her removal i.e. Friday, 07 July 2017 the child was not schooling and plans are afoot to ensure that the child is assisted to continue with her schooling.
We call on all people of Gauteng to be vigilant and must report such cases to our offices or call the Gauteng Hotline at 0860 428 8354or Call Social Development Gender Based Violence Command Centre 0800 428 428. National Human Trafficking Resource Line 0800 222 777.
ALLEGATIONS OF RAPE AT A FUNDED SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT CENTRE
The Department has since established that a 30-yer-old man has made allegations of rape at one of our funded substance abuse treatment centre. He is not a minor as initially reported. The initial investigation does not confirm the allegation. The department has been in contact with the said gentleman an up to so far he has been uncooperative and no case has been opened with the police. We are worried by this behaviour because it hampers our ability to ensure justice. However, our investigation of this matter will continue.
Furthermore, we will continue to assist him in his fight against substance abuse and to this end, we will ensure that he receives treatment at another rehabilitation centre.
INITIATION SCHOOLS RESCUE
“Every child has the right not to be subjected to social, cultural and religious practices which are detrimental to his or her well –being,” that is according the Children’s Act (38 of 2005) and section 12 of Children’s Act prohibits;
- Genital mutilation or the circumcision of female children; virginity testing of children under the age of 16;
- In the case of children above the age of 16, the Children’s Act states that virginity testing of children older than 16 may only be performed;
- if the child has given written consent to the testing and after proper counselling of the child through the prescribed Form 1. Even so, the results of a virginity test may not be disclosed without the consent of the child.
As part of enforcing these laws, the CRL has suspended all the initiation schools in Gauteng for the 2017 winter season pending proper certification in exception of the Ndebele Ndzundza Nation. The Ndundza’s were permitted to conduct their initiation schools since their schools are conducted after every four years, and had prior plans in the past 3 years. The Ndebele’s were able to table their case with the Commission and also committed to comply with the conditions set. Seeing that the Commission has put all other initiation schools to a halt in the province, the Department (COGTA) had to put up a Provincial Monitoring Team to ensure that all other bogus/unregistered initiation schools that might emerge are monitored and closed.
The Gauteng Government has intensified a crackdown on illegal initiation schools because, despite efforts to regulate this practice, admission of under-age / minors (14-17 years old initiates), persists. In this season alone, more than 20 children have been rescued by COGTA and brought to our care.
In Sedibeng Municipality thirteen under-age boys (15-17 years) and six female initiates were rescued, in the City of Tshwane it was 3 (two 14 year olds and a 15 –year- old), and another 15-year-old boy was rescued from the legally registered initiation school Ekurhuleni Municipality. Abduction/human trafficking and child neglect have been opened with SAPS.
A plethora of problems are associated with illegal initiation schools. Some initiates were found to have chronic diseases like Asthma; some schools did not have prescribed water tanks and event when there obvious transgression government could not act as some parents were not willing to open cases and in some instances withdrew cases. We also found that principals of illegal initiation schools are permitting criminal activities e.g. some of the initiation schools principals take advantage of the weak systems of the Government and make fraudulent forms. Drugs and alcohol found in some of the initiation schools were rife and parents of abducted children are often charged exorbitant fees before their children are released. In some instances the team found that school principals were themselves underage.
There is a general non-compliance with the municipal bylaws, Children’s Act 38 of 2005 and other legislations. Non availability of the initiates documentation on site and when the Monitoring Team visited the sites, e.g. parental consent forms, health screening certificates, ID’s / birth certificates.
We are angered by the many lives that are being destroyed by botched procedures. We can no longer afford to fold our arms while the young initiates continue to die, or are forever disfigured. No parent should subject their children to Initiation Schools unless those are approved to operate by the Municipality or CRL Commission. No child should be forced to Initiation Schools. Any case of abduction of children should be reported to the nearest Police Station or Social Development Offices. Parents or next of kin must call Gauteng Hotline at 0860 428 8354 for assistance.
Issued by Mbangwa Xaba, Gauteng Department of Social Development, 10 July 2017