During public hearings in Mopani District on the Children’s Amendment Bill on Monday, the Portfolio Committee on Social Development heard that some parents still misuse the child support grant to buy cell phones and alcohol, and to gamble. The committee is currently conducting provincial public hearings on the bill in Limpopo; the hearings began yesterday in the Vhembe District.

The communities of Tzaneen and surrounding areas in the Mopani District supported the Bill. One participant in the Mopani District, Mr Komanda Raymond, told the committee that the misspending of child support money is common among youthful parents, but when he confronts them about it they ignore his advice. “What happens is that we see these children not attending school,” he complained.

Another community representative agreed with this input, confirming that parents take the money for themselves. The government should identify reliable guardians who will spend the money in the manner intended, they recommended.

The committee also heard that children in the province face untold hardship in the face of the myth created by inyangas that a man can be cured of illness by having sexual intercourse with a minor. The parents asked the committee to include a clause in the bill condemning this practice and punishing inyangas who promote it.

The Chairperson of the committee, Mr Mondli Gungubele, commented that the misuse of grant money requires work on many fronts. “How do you as a mother spend your child’s money? There is a lot that needs to be sorted out, including inspection,” he said. “When you are spending the money intended for your five-year-old, what kind of a person are you? Law on its own will never resolve [this problem], if the mother steals the money of her five-year-old. You are besmirching these grants. You need societal involvement on these things.” Nonetheless, Mr Gungubele committed the committee to finding solutions for these problems, while noting that some social workers are not absorbed into the system.

Other challenges raised by communities included the sexual abuse of children, access to the child protection register, the time it takes for grant applications to be approved for abandoned children, unemployed orphans who are too old to receive grants, and drug and substance abuse.

Sibongile Maputi
7 June 2021