Not Yet Uhuru for Children Of South Africa, 30 years on

Date: 29 May 2024

Opinion Piece By: Boitumelo Zwane

Not Yet Uhuru for Children Of South Africa, 30 years on

Child Protection Week was launched officially in South Africa on 19 May 2024. To mark the 30 years of South Africa’s Democracy and progress made on protecting the rights of children, the week is being commemorated under the theme “Protecting South African Children, 30 years on”. The Constitution of South Africa Act 108 of 1996, particularly Section 28 sets precedence for the protection of children. Noteworthy strides have been achieved with the enactment of child protective legislation (Children’s Act, Child Justice Act and Sexual Offence and Related Matters Act) and the adoption of various policies, regulations, and strategies to provide guidance on implementation by various sector duty bearers.   


This implementation has not been free from challenges in a state plagued by mismanagement in government, corruption, and poor service delivery that have had an unswerving negative impact on the country’s younger population. These have resulted in gross violation of human rights and children’s rights.   


It is not yet Uhuru for children of South Africa when the work conducted by the Commission for Gender Equality has found that girls as young as 10 years old are being sexually violated and impregnated and lack the requisite support due to a lack of child friendly and accessible sexual and reproductive health care services. Children are pushed out of school due to unconducive schooling environments that are without the necessary amenities and lack of support. A survey conducted by Action Society has indicated that “A great majority of 97,39% of parents do not feel it is safe for their children to play in a park or ride a bicycle alone. Furthermore, 93% fear that their children may be kidnapped”. Public spaces have become unsafe for all, moreso for vulnerable children that cannot protect themselves on streets that are without lighting, with high uncut grass and abandoned buildings and no proper street connections due to a lack of service delivery. Challenges faced by children also span to matters of culture wherein children are exposed to harmful cultural practices including Ukuthwala and illegal initiation and circumcision schools. Religious spaces are not exempt as children are subjected to sexual violation in these spaces as well.  


It is the mandate of the CGE to promote and protect gender equality and continues to do so through accountability stakeholder engagements with duty bearers responsible for upholding the rights of children.   


The full protection of children in South Africa requires amongst others a working system of governance, application of legislation, a working justice system, awareness, and continuous advocacy for the rights of children.