Safeguarding the future

Friday, May 17, 2024

As the country celebrates 30 years of freedom and democracy, the Department of Social Development will launch the country’s Child Protection Week on Sunday, 19 May 2024. 

According to the department, South Africa has undergone a deliberate transformation, with one of the key priorities being to ensure the protection and upholding of the human rights of children. 

The previous laws, according to the department, were informed by colonial and apartheid systems, which brought the provision of services based on race and colour. 

These laws, amongst others, included the Group Areas Act, Bantu Local Authorities Act and the 1923 Native Areas Act, which segregated urban residential space and created “influx controls” to reduce access to cities by Blacks.

“All these and other pieces of legislation had a negative impact on the lives of Blacks, Coloureds, and Indian communities who were discriminated against because of their colour and were categorised as minority groups without access to basic services, including, clean water, quality education, and their right to dignity.

“The South African family was disintegrated and separated through migrant labour laws leaving children with one or no caregiver or parent,” the statement read. 

In its efforts to advance the dignity and human rights of the people, the democratic government has since prioritised the development of the Constitution which was signed into law in 1996. 

Section 28 of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution guarantees children their rights, including the right to a name, citizenship, education care and support. 

According to the Constitution, children need food and shelter for their development and survival. They should also be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse, or degradation as well as from exploitative labour practices. 

“When Nelson Mandela became President, he committed to creating and leading a people-centred society and spoke to the needs of caring for children and young people.

“The youth of our country are the valued possession of the nation. Without them, there can be no future. Their needs are immense and urgent. They are at the centre of our reconstruction and development plan.”

To demonstrate the commitment of the new government to the rights of children, in his first State of the Nation Address, President Mandela ordered the release of children who were incarcerated by the oppressive government. 

The department said before 2005, the Child Care Act, which was later overhauled and replaced by the Children’s Act 38 of 2005, regulated children’s services. 

“The introduction of the Children’s Act brought in a paradigm shift in the provision of child protection services and put the best interest of all children at the centre.” 

As a result, the strengthened child protection measures saw the introduction of services that were geared towards care and protection of children, cushioning orphans, and vulnerable children as well as the protection of children in need of care and protection.

In celebrating the country’s 30 years of freedom and democracy, Social Development Minister, Lindiwe Zulu, will launch the Child Protection Week campaign to reflect on the gains of the country and to promote the rights of children. 

This year, the campaign was brought forward due to the national elections and will be commemorated under the ‘Protecting South Africa’s Children 30 years on’ theme. 

South Africa through the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child is obligated to look after every child within its borders. 

The department said government has invested in children through various services like education, health, access to clean water, health, and electricity and currently has the biggest social assistance programme aimed at protecting children. –