Dear Mr. President,
Why are you so silent? Is the senseless murder of the young Tazne Van Wyk just another South African statistic? How many children and women must die such violent and senseless deaths for the government to wake up and say, “We have to protect the most vulnerable in our society.” Our children are the future and yet they are growing up scared and traumatised, living inside their homes as it isn’t safe to play cricket or soccer outside in the streets. They’re too scared to go and buy a packet of Niknaks because someone could take them and they may never be seen again. The pain we cry as a nation is, “Whose child is next?”
Yes, we are angry! Yes, we are heartbroken! Yes, we demand that you – yes YOU, do more for our communities and our country. Do something instead of shouting in parliament about who is responsible for gender-based violence, a public platform where our young boys watch and see how men in power treat women. Stand up and be a role model. The chaos in parliament ripples into our schools, into our communities, into our homes and into the systems that are meant to protect our children.
Our statutory services are failing. As an organisation who works with children at-risk, children who are thrown out of school, roaming the streets or who are affected by abuse, we are tired of struggling to fight the systems that are in place. As social workers, psychologists and other professionals we struggle to report abuse to police officers, and see first hand how nothing happens to perpetrators of child abuse in our communities. We fight with police and with statutory child protection agencies to press child abuse charges and we are faced with laughter in our faces and phrases like “Ma’am, nothing is going to happen here…our prisons are so full already.”
You see, this shows our children that they don’t matter, that their voices don’t count. They are invisible in society and people who are put in place to protect them in fact can’t, and promises from adults are broken yet again. Our children are growing up angry, mistrusting and have learnt to keep quiet when abuse continues to happen in their homes, schools and communities because what hope do they have when they see no justice?
What makes us so angry is that Tazne’s Van Wyk’s murder, like so many others, was and is, preventable! Tazne Van Wyk’s killer was a perpetrator of child abuse previously and yet his light sentence and lack of follow-up by parole officers led to her murder. And who is accountable for this? No one, because this is only one case of the thousands of perpetrators who are out on parole and who are not accounted for.
Is there hope? Despite everything, we believe that there is. But for change, we don’t just need hope, we need action. We need government and civil society to work together to keep our children safe. We need heavier sentences for child abuse; we need perpetrators to be in restorative justice programmes; we need statutory workers to be held accountable for their lack of investigative work and we need child abuse cases to be taken seriously!
So while you stay silent, Mr President, our children’s bodies are piling up…and we ask ourselves “whose child is next?”
Written collectively by the Arise Staff Team