Mother City the most dangerous for children in South Africa

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By Matt Medved

Cape Town is the most dangerous city in South Africa for children to live in, according to a recent research study.

The results showed 200 violent deaths of children for every 100 000 city residents.
“In Cape Town, the number of violent deaths of children is very much weighted by the number of deaths of adolescents,” said Childline national co-ordinator Joan van Nieker

“One wonders if it is not gang activity that helps account for the extremely high numbers.”

The study, which tracked violent deaths of children up to age 18, was based on 2006 research by Professor Sebastian van As, head of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trauma Unit.

The results found Durban to be the second most dangerous city with 127 deaths per 100 000 people, followed by Johannesburg with 64.

“Johannesburg led the country in infant deaths and there is a severe abandonment problem there,” said Van Niekerk .

“But it’s quite interesting, because we all think of Johannesburg as being the most dangerous city for children, but obviously not, it’s Cape Town.”

Van Niekerk said the study had focused on major urban areas because figures from rural areas were “often deflated because of under-reporting”.

“Traditionally Cape Town has always been very violent compared to other cities,” said Van As.

“And there is a lot of violence against children, especially in the township areas.”

Van As said gangs played a significant role in the high violent crime statistics regarding children in the Western Cape.

“Data from UCT suggests that there are 18 000 gang members in the Western Cape, and it is also suspected that there are probably 100 000 people whose income is dependent on gangs,” said Van As.

“It’s certainly not an easy problem to be solved.”

The 2004-2005 statistics show the Western Cape leading the country in indecent assaults against children. And Western Cape experts agree that the number of violent and sexual crimes against children has been growing every year.

DA spokesperson on child abuse Mike Waters said: “It’s a combination of a number of things. People are reporting these crimes more, indicating a vote of confidence in the system. But unfortunately, there are more children being raped and killed each year as well.”

Molo Songololo director Patric Solomons said the Western Cape’s support systems and campaigns against violence may have inflated statistics due to a higher level of crime reporting.

“However I do feel the incidence of crimes against children is far too high across the country,” said Solomons.

Solomons said the Western Cape had specific causal factors that contributed to violence against children.

“Definitely, we have a high presence of gangs and crime networks that recruit teenagers for illegal activities. But social crimes such as alcohol abuse contribute as well. We’ve already seen where unsuspecting victims have been drugged or given alcohol. These kind of conditions further fuel the vulnerability of children.”

The headlines have reflected the crisis.

On July 2, the body of Sonja Brown, 2, was found in a drain in Rawsonville. On June 23, the body of Mikayla Roussouw, 6, was found in a box under a neighbour’s bed in a Swellendam shack.

And earlier in 2007 the body of Annestacia Wiese, 11, was found in the ceiling of her mother’s home in Mitchell’s Plain.

    • This article was originally published on page 5 of Cape Argus on July 18, 2007
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~ by Matt Medved on July 18, 2007.

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