In 2016, the United Nations Children’s Funds (Unicef) named South Africa as the worst country in the world to raise school-going children aged between five and fourteen.
Non-governmental organisations in the Western Cape have put the number of child murders in the province at about 66 in 2017, revealing a horrific trend of how communities and families are torn apart by violence in South Africa.
CapeTalk and 702 anchor, Eusebius McKaiser speaks to Mitchells Plain Crisis Forum cair Joanie Fredericks and Western Cape Social Development head Dr Robert McDonald and Valdi Van Reenen-Le Roux of The Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture about the spate of child disappearances and killings in the Western Cape.
Painting a picture of Mitchells Plain, Fredericks says the area is a good place, but for the past year, things have taken a turn for the worse.
We all know about gangsterism, drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment and poverty. But this new phenomenon of raping and killing women and children is unheard of even in Mitchells Plain.— Joanie Fredericks, the chairperson on the Mitchells Plain Crisis Forum
Fredericks relays the traumatic experience of being a part of a search party that looked for three-year-old Courtney Pieters for nine days before being found dead.
She explains that they kept requesting the police to search for the Pieters in a room where she was eventually later found.
I think the Social Development Department in the province is at the front line of addressing child abuse, neglect and the risk of children being murdered.— Dr Robert McDonald is the Head of the Department of Western Cape Social Development
McDonald says there are presently 35 000 children in the department's system adding that social workers are inundated with enormous caseloads. "We are under extreme pressure, the rate of child abuse and neglect is unheard of", says McDonald.
The department is performing a careful analysis to determine where its systems have gaps and how they can improve it he adds.
One of the things that has helped us a lot has been the pilot of the child death review panel in the Western Cape which is the first in the country. The data that we've got from that is helping us get a clear picture of what is going on with these child deaths.— Dr Robert McDonald is the Head of the Department of Western Cape Social Development
Over 500 children die in the province every year, explains McDonald.
Across the board, the department is able to determine that 60% of child deaths in the Western Cape are related to natural causes while the other 40% is due to unnatural causes.
He says the pattern of unnatural causes tend to be more around abuse and neglect for children in their early years.
McDonald goes on to say that they are seeing a major increase in the number of homicides, mostly in relation to gang violence in the age group 10 to 17 years-old.
Valdi Van Reenen-Le Roux talks about the effect of gangs in the community.
Listen to the clip below for the full interview: