At the launch of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund in 1995, Mandela said: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
It is an indictment on us that two decades after Mandela delivered this powerful message, his advice has gone unheeded and the lives of many children continue to be devastated in many ways. South Africa is plagued by high levels of violent crime.
Even children, the nation’s most vulnerable people, have not been spared and bear the brunt of the crime wave that hits them, even in their own homes and schools, places where they should be safe. On Tuesday, we published a disturbing story in which a man confessed to raping and killing his four-year-old niece while she slept, before stuffing her lifeless body under his bed.
The child’s body was found 12 hours later. On the same day we reported this terrible crime, the Sowetan carried the shocking story of a 41-year-old father who faces more than 3 000 charges relating to sex crimes against children, including drugging and raping children as young as 10. What kind of people do this to their own children? These are not isolated cases.
We read daily shocking stories of indescribable crimes being committed against children by the very people they look up to for protection. People often make a mistake of labelling as dogs people committing crimes against their own offspring. This insults dogs. Animal lovers will attest to how caring and protective dogs are of their puppies.
It is often said society is judged by the way it cares for its most defenceless and powerless – and its most dependent. This spate of horrendous crimes against children is again a sobering reminder that we are a nation that is failing its young people.