Sex predator register 'a mess'

05 October 2012 - 02:00 By DENISE WILLIAMS

The Department of Social Development has come under fire following revelations that only 40 convicted child abusers and sexual offenders are listed in the Child Protection Register.

Briefing the media in parliament yesterday, DA MP Mike Waters said thousands of child abusers were falling through the cracks because of the department's poor use of the register.

"The [register] is a complete mess. How can there be so few names when it is estimated that around 30000 children a year are victims of sexual abuse?"

The register lists the names of abused or neglected children and of adults who have been classified as unsuitable to work with children because of their criminal behaviour.

In a reply to a written parliamentary question by Waters, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini this week said that 398 vulnerable children and 40 adult offenders were registered.

Department spokesman Lumka Oliphant denied that there were flaws in the system.

"The fact that there is a conviction does not mean automatic placement on the register.

"There are no problems with the register but the department cannot automatically place people on the register without a court process. The law requires this," she said.

She said automatic placement on the register, as proposed by the DA, could open the department or the state to litigation.

She said it was questionable whether any one state department could fully implement the register.

In terms of the system, people convicted of the murder, attempted murder, rape or assault of a child can only be registered as unsuitable for work with children once their names have been submitted first to the director-general of the Department of Justice, then to Dlamini's department.

Waters argued that the lack of co-ordination between the two departments had made the register ineffective.

He proposed that Dlamini's department surrender the management of the register to the Department of Justice.

"There is so much confusion in the Department of Social Development that the names are just lying around and are not being captured."

He accused the department of constantly citing conflicting numbers.

In May, the department told a portfolio committee that there were 438 offenders listed on the register, and 19830 vulnerable children .

Waters said it was a slap in the face for children to claim that their rights were a priority when the government could not even run a register properly.