Money and political will needed to tackle child murders

Amidst the backlash against the budget tabled in Parliament this week as “anti-poor”, an answer to a Parliamentary question revealed that often money alone is not enough to address serious social ills. Political will is just as crucial to put systems in place to achieve the very thing budgets are intended for. This in turn will require rigorous monitoring by citizens and civil society of budget spending and its impact – something that will hopefully improve with the new Vulekamali initiative for greater public input in budget processes.

Government has stressed the protection of women and children as a priority yet considering the alarming child murder cases reported, it has thus far performed dismally. DA MP Manny de Freitas asked the Minister of Justice in a written question recently how many child murder cases has been recorded by the department in every province the last three financial years. The answer was startling.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha in his reply acknowledged the department “can unfortunately not respond in respect to data on child murder charges”. Masutha said the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development`s Integrated Case Management System (ICMS) does not currently provide for victims’ details yet, and the Department is thus unable to specify if a criminal charge of murder is linked to a victim such as a child. This lack of statistics not only hamper any effort to intervene in the spate of child murders that rocked the country the past years but also raise questions on how budgets allocated for issues like this, have been spent, what informed it and more importantly if it was value for money.

The integrated case management system is part of the department’s overall Justice Modernisation programme. The budget for this programme has since 2014 been growing at an average of 3,1%, meaning this cannot just be blamed on a lack of funds. An amount of R971,8 million has been allocated for this in the coming financial year yet Masutha still refer to getting these statistics “in future”. “Efforts are in place to address this gap. Thus far, a data collection tool for the details of all crime victims, including children, has been drafted, and is now being taken through the stakeholder-consultation process,” he said. “But in the future the Department will be able to report on it from the Integrated Justice System (IJS) transversal system data.”

Yet child murders are a pressing issue now, and in need of immediate solutions. By November last year Non-Profit organisations recorded 66 child murders in the Western Cape which also put the spotlight on efforts of the police to curb these murders. DA MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard earlier bemoaned the “lack of urgency” shown by the government in tackling the scourge of child murders. This after the Minister of Police revealed child murders have increased by 14,5% year-on-year, totalling 969 cases in the 2014/15 financial year. Tackling social ills is thus not just a money issue but also a question of political will which becomes increasingly important given budget cuts and departments having to do more with less.

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