Children's parliament a salute to Madiba

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pretoria - Former President Nelson Mandela will have a gift of a different kind to mark his 93rd birthday, with the inaugural Annual Nelson Mandela Children's Parliament to be hosted at the Gauteng Provincial Legislature on Friday.

This forms part of Mandela Day activities, which is celebrated every year on Madiba's birthday, 18 July.

Children have always occupied a special place in Mandela's heart. Within his first year as the President of South Africa, Mandela launched the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund (NMCF) as a sign of his commitment to the wellbeing of children.

Children will return the honour of his pledge to their cause by staging a National Children's Parliament as a way of saluting him for placing them high on South Africa's national development agenda.

Ranked as the key strategic activity in the building of a national child rights movement, the Children's Parliament is initiated through a partnership between the Department for Women, Children and People with Disabilities and the NMCF, and hosted by the Gauteng Provincial Legislature to promote accountability for children's wellbeing.

Welcoming the inaugural Annual Nelson Mandela Children's Parliament, Minister Lulu Xingwana said her department believes children should not only be seen but also heard.

"Nothing better represents an opportunity to give credence to this collective view than convening a National Children's Parliament where leaders from various spheres of government can affirm children's voices with their valued presence.

"Holding all of us in authority accountable represents both the spirit and letter that our founding democratic President Nelson Mandela had set in motion on April 27, 1994," said Xingwana.

The Children's Parliament will be held under the theme, "Holding those in authority accountable." Deliberations will focus on three supportive sub-themes which are health, education and safety and security.

Elaborating on the theme, NMCF Acting CEO Moipone Buda-Ramatlo said: "By authority we mean the exercise of responsibility, duty and obligation to act in the best interest of the child to ensure their safety, wellbeing and development at all times.

"Families, communities, civil society and all spheres government dare not take leave from the wellbeing of children because in them lies the foundation of the future society envisioned in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa."

For the first time, government officials will be making a conscious effort to be part of a National Children's Parliament session hosted under the navigation of Speaker of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, Lindiwe Maseko.

Maseko said the Gauteng Legislature has had its share of welcoming civil society voiced heard within its corridors but looks forward to the element of difference that the Children's Parliament will be bringing.

"The future we are battling to create can only be better by trying different but well-meaning approaches to the kind of a future we would like our children to inherit," Maseko said.

Children parliamentarians will receive a salutary message from former President Mandela during the seating of the Children's Parliament on Friday.

Represented at the Children's Parliament will be five children from each of the country's nine provinces.

The inaugural Nelson Mandela Children's Parliament is scheduled to start at 10am.