At least 77 children were sexually violated every day last year, DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko has said.
“Detailed statistics on the types of sexual offences committed in South Africa are virtually nonexistent, but last year 28 128 sexual offences against children were reported. This means that 77 children are sexually violated in this country every day,” she said.
Marking the start of Child Protection Week, the DA called for the reinstatement of sexual offences courts; a single, consolidated sexual offenders’ register; and more social workers.
DA spokesman on social development Mike Waters said a 2006 report showed that SA needed at least 60 000 social workers just for the implementation of the Child Protection Act.
“But there are only 16 740 registered social workers, representing a 70 percent shortfall. The government has known for some time already.”
The DA proposed boosting the number of detectives in family violence, child protection and sexual offences units, increasing the number of Thuthuzela care centres (TCCs) and publishing detailed statistics on sexual offences.
Debbie Schafer, DA spokeswoman on justice and constitutional development, lamented the disbanding of the sexual offences units in 2006. This had “dispersed specialist personnel, police officers and detectives, leading to the tragic loss of much-needed expertise”, even though they had been re-established in April last year.
“(Justice) Minister Jeff Radebe recently announced that he will conduct an urgent investigation into the re-establishment of sexual offences courts,” she said.
“This is not necessarily enough to improve conditions for survivors of sexual offences or the conviction rate for these crimes. The courts must be complemented by the establishment of fully operational Thuthuzela care centres across the country,” Schafer added.
“The combined efforts of a specialised court and specialist care centre like the TCCs are the best way to ensure not only conviction but also the necessary victim support.
“The National Prosecuting Authority has also confirmed the effectiveness of this combined approach.”
It was concerning that the decision to disband the specialised courts appeared to have come from magistrates, who were apparently reluctant to sit in them because it was career-limiting and too traumatic.
“We would like to make a special plea to the lower-court judiciary to assist in every way possible to ensure that these courts are re-established,” Schafer said.
Waters said there should be a single, consolidated sexual offenders’ register, maintained by the Justice Department.
The existing two registers were a wasteful duplication, especially since child protection services were underfunded and under-resourced.
The DA would submit a private member’s legislative proposal in this regard.
Lorenzo Wakefield, of the University of the Western Cape’s Community Law Centre, welcomed the recommendations and said existing social workers should be better used.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the SAPS would prioritise training to ensure better investigation of crimes against children.