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The recent devastating report by the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund has breathed life into former president Nelson Mandela’s words, “There is no keener revelation of a nation’s soul than the way it treats its children”. The report laid bare how the ANC government’s twisted priorities have undermined South African children.
More than 27% of children under 5 are stunted due to malnutrition, which can cause irreversible physical and cognitive damage. Pregnant women do not have access to pre-natal support, and so their children’s health is being compromised before they’re even born.
In 2020, 10% of children lived in households that reported child hunger.
About 14% of children have treatable mental health conditions, yet the country's lack of specialists and facilities means they will probably carry this burden for the rest of their lives.
Yet, government has done its best to collapse any programmes meant to empower, protect and support children in South Africa. The NGOs looking after children have had their subsidies stopped thereby forcing many of them to close, schools are death traps with pit toilets and drug peddling zones, food is unaffordable, the spaces they should be playing in are gang infested, and their mothers and caregivers fear for their lives everyday as they get abused and even killed.
Before the children are even born, their lives are threatened. Some mothers who are forced by their circumstances to give up their babies cannot do so safely, because the Gauteng government has denied them this by declaring baby savers illegal. These newborns end up dying horrifically in plastic bags, under train station benches, or in pit toilets – their blood is on the ANC government’s hands.
Those that survive this ordeal are denied the opportunity of loving and caring families as their adoption and fostering processes are hampered or cancelled.
Those children who escape dying live a life of suffering as their development is stunted, making the rest of their lives a misery.
The Children’s Amendment Bill, which was meant to change the sad lot of children, was cut into chunks, the biggest of which was “erroneously” rejected and is now dead. There are scant hopes that the 7th Parliament will resuscitate it as a committee bill, but it is not safe to even hold one’s breath on that one – if almost a decade’s experience in the goings on of the parliamentary portfolio committee on social development is anything to go by.
The DA had worked hard on the Bill in the hopes that South Africa’s soul would show signs of caring for the most vulnerable – our children – but that was not to be. Political expediency and box ticking got in the way of caring for children. And so, children wait for some semblance of political will to prevail on their behalf.
As we gear towards the 2024 national and provincial elections, children of South Africa can look forward to a government whose caring is not only in word only but in action as well – as the DA gets ready to rescue South Africa.
Issued by Bridget Masango MP - DA Shadow Minister of Social Development