We are failing our children, says Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa says the lives of children who have died could have been saved if measures had been taken to keep them out of harm’s way.
“All of those young lives, and the lives of many others, need never have been lost. It seems to me that, as a society, we are failing our children,” he said.
His message comes after the death of Parktown Boys' High School pupil Enock Mpianzi, who drowned during a school orientation camp this month.
“Too many children find themselves in dangerous situations, whether it is on a makeshift raft on a river or being left alone in a shack with a paraffin lamp. When contractors leave excavations unprotected or school infrastructure is not maintained or school transport is overcrowded, the lives of children are put at risk.
“But there is more than negligence and neglect at work. Many children are targeted by sexual predators, criminal gangs and drug sellers precisely because they are vulnerable. As a society, we need to be more diligent and more active in protecting our children from these and other dangers,” said the president.
He said South Africans needed to build a culture of responsibility.
“We need to be responsible for ourselves, for our children and for others. Just as we need to ensure that children are able to grow up in a safe, nurturing and stimulating environment, so too must we feel a duty to protect and care for all those who we know and interact with.
“We must feel this duty of care on the road. While we welcome the drop in road fatalities over this festive season, the grim reality is that over 1,600 people died on our roads in just a month and a half. It is disturbing that over 9,000 motorists were arrested for offences including drunk driving, speeding, and reckless and negligent driving. A culture of responsibility means that we should all drive safely and respect the rights of pedestrians and other road users.”
A culture of responsibility, Ramaphosa said, meant fathers needed to be present in the lives of their children.
“Too many women have to raise children on their own, which often limits their prospects and those of their children.
“A culture of responsibility also means that we should practise safe sex and not expose ourselves or others to HIV. We should not abuse alcohol or use drugs. We should seek to live healthy lives so that we avoid diseases that are largely preventable.”
He said elected officials and public servants should ensure there was adequate and safe infrastructure in schools and act “quickly” when there was an interruption to water supply in communities or when faulty street lights were reported.
“They must ensure that health and safety regulations are enforced and that the rule of law is maintained. In response to the deaths and injury caused by children falling into pit latrines, we launched the SAFE initiative to accelerate the provision of appropriate toilets to all schools in the country. We deployed the South African National Defence Force to parts of Cape Town to support the police in their efforts to reduce gang violence. More recently, we have, with civil society, embarked on an emergency response plan to end violence against women and children,” said Ramaphosa.