During public hearings in the Vhembe District in Limpopo, communities called on the Portfolio Committee on Social Development to ensure that the Children’s Amendment Bill includes equal rights and responsibilities for both fathers and mothers.

A resident in the Thulamela Local Municipality, Mr Castro Mosimane, told the committee that legislation has made super-parents out of mothers, which has resulted in a sexist way of implementing legislation. “Through this sexist application of the law, the child loses an opportunity to belong to both parents. Let there be equality on parenting, even if there has been conflict among the parents.”

“Let there be punishment for the violation of the parenting rights of fathers. The SAPS [South African Police Service] are used to intimidate fathers; this is not right,” Mr Mosimane told the committee. Section 21 of the bill should be erased or aligned with the constitution, he added.

Residents also asked the committee to consider the white papers on matters concerning children; social services in schools; declining applications for foster care; the Department of Home Affairs’ refusal to issue certificates; closure of schools distributing food parcels; the responsibilities of relatives of children whose parents have passed away; making the foster care grant permanent; and the value of the grant itself.

The Portfolio Committee on Social Development began provincial public hearings into the Children’s Amendment Bill on Sunday in Thohoyandou. During the first leg of the public hearings into the bill, the committee visited Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. The Acting Chairperson of the committee, Ms Kate Bilankulu, called on people to raise concerns that could not be resolved at previous public hearings with other departments.

Also participating in the public hearings, the Limpopo MEC for social development, Ms Nkakareng Rakgoale, said it is important for civil society, individual community members and government officials to make inputs on amending the Children’s Act. “All the aspects highlighted are paramount to the care and protection of children. We are delighted that the public hearings are starting here in the Thulamela Municipal area, where incidents of gender-based violence and femicide, and bullying are prevalent,” she added. Children are amongst the most vulnerable members of society, which makes their special protection all the more important, she pointed out.

Sibongile Maputi
7 June 2021