Child murder capital to introduce first Children’s Commissioner

The country's child murder capital will be the first province to appoint a Children's Commissioner.

The Western Cape has established the role to ensure that the rights, needs and interests of children are upheld and met.

Hailed as a win for children in the province, non-profit collaborative Connect Network said it hoped to see the commissioner appointed soon and for other provinces to follow suit.

Of the 985 children murdered in South Africa in 2017/2018, most took place in the Western Cape.

Premier Alan Winde explained that the commissioner would have the power to monitor, investigate, research, lobby and educate on issues, policy, services and legislation that have an impact on children.

"The legislation also allows for anyone to request that the commissioner investigate or research specific matters relating to children," he said.

"The position was originally created with a view to upholding the rights of children and ensuring that there was a dedicated advocate for children's rights.

"We have made issues of safety and security one of the top priorities for this term, and as such the position will be an additional measure to ensure that crime and its impact on children and issues of children's safety are addressed in order to make the province safer for everyone, including its most vulnerable citizens."

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Gazetted in March, the process of finding a suitable candidate has been driven independently by the Provincial Legislature.

After advertising for nominations and conducting participation processes and interviews, a shortlist will be submitted to Winde who will then decide within 14 days.

"It is impossible to say how long this process will take as we cannot interfere in the work of the legislature, however, we would like to see the processes get underway as soon as possible," he said.

Included in the specific steps to be taken in appointing the commissioner, is for the names of nominees to be published to allow the public to object to any potential candidate.

"In order to be considered, the person must be a South African citizen who is fit and proper to hold the role and has specific knowledge of relevant professional experience or a substantial academic record in children's issues," he explained.

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The person cannot be an MP or work for any organ of the state.

"The person will be appointed for a period of three years, and during this time, he or she cannot hold any office of profit or engage in any occupation for reward, outside of their duties as commissioner."

Winde said the processes might seem lengthy but the "absolute right person" was needed for the job.

"Issues of children's safety are high on the agenda right now and the Children's Commissioner will have a role to play in helping us develop policy and take decisions that have children's best interests at heart.

"Their role is also important outside of issues of safety and will help to inform how we as a province will meet the needs of children through services like health, education, social development, as well as sports and recreation."

Last week, Red Cross Children's Hospital revealed that 17 children have been treated for gunshot wounds since the start of the year, while more than 250 others have been treated for incidents involving violence, abuse or neglect.

Between January and May, 273 children were treated, after being victims of various forms of violence: 88 cases of physical abuse, 66 of neglect, 45 of sexual abuse, 22 of burns, 18 for dog bites, 11 of a child being at risk, and six of abandonment

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