Helen Zille’s reluctance to set up a child-murder inquiry will haunt DA’s power corridors for a long time

As the body count of innocent children continue to pile up at the hands of ruthless gun-wielding Cape gangsters, Helen Zille’s refusal to establish a Commission of Inquiry into their deaths is telling of how much she values their lives, writes MATTHEW FOSTER

Sixty one children have been murdered in the city of Cape Town since the beginning of the year. That is according to a list compiled by the Trauma Centre’s Child Murder Database and further data sourced from the grieving families, communities, and by the media. In response to this, the Premier of the Western Cape, the infamous Helen Zille, said a commission of inquiry into these crimes would simply be too costly.

What does Zille mean that such a necessary means of sourcing findings, communicating advice, and finally legally binding recommendations is too much of a cost? Save The Children South Africa’s report on violence meted out on children reported that the abuse of children cost the state R238 billion in 2016.

In more detail, the same organisation found that in 2015, the reduction in potential earnings in adulthood after a childhood marked by violent trauma came to R34.8 billion. This figure was calculated in 2015 with the understanding that having been a victim of child abuse, a worker’s monthly salary reduced on average by R341, in a country where [in 2015], the median monthly earnings were R3262.

Lastly, it is worth noting that an estimated 38.7% of the South African labour force in 2015 was composed of lifelong victims of child abuse, both physical and emotional. That entails that nearly half of the workforce in the country does not function or earn at the optimum level which they should be.

In effect, this widens the gap between the rich and the poor, and Zille will have to face up to the consequences that this will have on the economy in short and long-term.

But this is about those who have been murdered and raped. Those who will not be able to fight the good fight for freedoms of association due to gang demarcations. Those who do not have the freedom of safety due to living in the environments that enable the conditions which keep them in the crossfire of a stray bullet. Those girls who by virtue of them being girls are not safe from men who exert power over them in the form of rape.

This is about those who do not make it into the labour force which they, as I have just stated, will not be performing at their optimum capacity in.

The 61 children who were brutally raped, murdered, and discarded across the Cape Flats are surely more than enough for any human being to want to take action for.

Certainly, rationality dictates that this is a crisis of epidemic proportions. Nobody is safe if a three year-old can have her eyes gorged out before being murdered, or if a 15 year-old can be stabbed to death at school. And school is in itself already a dangerous place for children growing up on the Cape Flats to walk to.

One qualitative report has spoken of children with scars left by stray bullets that grazed their heads, while Madam Zille brushes this off as something too costly to investigate and remediate. Another instance of this extreme and brutal environment is how gangsters, last month, August 2017, were found dressing as learners to carry out the business of killing in a school that is placed between two rival gangs’ territories.

Madam Zille simply does not care, nor does Patricia De Lille, but gentrification is clearly higher on the DA’s priority lists than quality education and child protection, which would clearly produce a labour force that would benefit the economy. Perhaps we need to speak about the economy to them rather than about humanity, because money is clearly the only language they understand.

One seriously has to ponder on the fact that c was anxious and traumatised enough to predict her own death at the age of 14. It cannot be that South Africa is at the point where all children and women are at the mercy of crime like this.

What kind of a society are we that minors’ creative writings can echo Tupac’s paranoia? How can it be that one learner murders another with a blade in the confines of a school? This cannot be lawlessness. We have long since passed that point. Violence is now as commonplace as corruption, and in the Coloured community in particular, so too is murder.

It is unjust that the City established a police unit to prevent so-called “land grabs” but not one to protect its own children. If they want the community to do the work for them then they can expect PAGAD to return. But surely that would be another opportunity for them to get angry at the ANC for not sending the SANDF into civilian areas of residence.

Vigilantism has not solved anything, but neither have lax politicians who would rather tweet about the glorious legacy of colonialism. Well, Madam Zille, what you are witnessing are the direct consequences of landlessness and an identity crisis founded in colonialism and further perpetuated by your neo-apartheid regime in the Western Cape.

When parents have to shut a primary school down in order to defend the lives of their children, then one needs to understand the extent of unemployment for those parents to even do such a thing in the first place. When a boy becomes a gangster, then a man, and puts children at risk almost without showing remorse, it is an identity crisis which is fed by displacement and educational neglect which will once more fall right at your neo-apartheid step, Madam Zille.

The Premier most certainly is guilty of inciting vigilantism and violence by neglecting for so long, and so explicitly, the people who have kept her in power. The time to capitalise on the Western Cape’s gap between education of the well to do and the impoverished denizens of its outer city is coming to an end. The time for a radical change, and not a transformation, approaches swiftly, and most certainly not quietly.

The children whose deaths the Premier has found to be too irrelevant to be considered epidemic will haunt the corridors of Cape Town’s powers that be for as long as the pro-rich are in charge of that corner of South Africa. A political solution is needed, as well as a grassroots one which would address the lack of social literacy, the identity crisis and alcoholism that plague the people of Cape Town. Until such a time comes, it is clear that the Madam will remain eloquent in her neglect, which is, in itself, a form of abuse.

Matthew Foster is an activist focusing on Coloured isses, education and Fees Must Fall. He aspires to be a teacher one day

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