The latest crime statistics paint Western Cape townships as the most dangerous places to be in South Africa. Although a few categories such as sexual assault and abuse of children dropped fractionally, this has little impact in the light of the increase in serious crimes, committed mostly by the youth. For the youth of Mbekweni Township, the ball is in the court of young people themselves.
This reality prompted World Vision, together with other child-friendly organisations to use June 16, the International Day of the African Child and Youth day in South Africa, to hold an event for deliberation on crime as a major issue affecting children’s education, happiness and health.
Marked by sarafina dance and drama performances, reminding South Africans of the 1976 massacre, women ululated as their sons and daughters demonstrated their skills and talents.
Speakers from departments of police, agriculture, education and local municipality officers, were in one accord as they discouraged youth form getting into trouble with the law. Police encouraged youth and children to stay away from substance abuse and pursue education for better opportunities. “As young people you need to understand that if a child commits crime while underage to be sentenced, the criminal record will be kept, and if the same child commits another crime when over 18 years, the prosecution will use the first crime committed as the basis for a harsh sentence,” said Police Officer Masuku.
Youngster Bradley added his voice to the appeals to the youth: “It is no longer enough to leave everything to the hands of the government. We have to be bold and take a stand against crime.”
Alcohol and drug abuse, gangsterism and illegal firearm possession are rife in this region, and statistics show that young men in high-risk areas who are exposed to high levels of crime and violence from a young age are more vulnerable to becoming involved in crime. Young women are more prone to become victims of gender-based violent crimes such as assault and rape.
Local government officials also stressed the critical role of parents in shaping the morals of the youth. “We need parents to know what their children are doing, where they are, and to take responsibility for them. It is important to understand what the role of government is, and what our roles are as parents, religious organisations, carers and communities,” said Councillor Barbara Rass.