Speech by Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen on the State of the Nation Address Debate

9 February 2007

Honorable Speaker

Honorable President

The history of the African National Congress has always been to fight oppression, to fight discrimination. We have now achieved our democracy and freedom but the fight continues and that is against poverty and against crime. Just as our commitment and energy went into fighting oppression, in the same way our commitment will be to fighting poverty and crime.

The work continues.

Amongst the many effects of the system of apartheid, poverty, social dislocation and systematic violence helped to create conditions for the growth of crime. In spite of the growing crime, work done over the last decade shows that crime can be beaten if South

Africans continue to work together to reduce criminal activities and to build safer
communities. Safer communities where our children can play freely, where women can walk anywhere and also be free inside their own homes, where our elderly will be respected and not abused.

In our 1994 election manifesto, the ANC had a clear plan to build a better life for all that requires a peaceful and secure environment in which people can live without fear. In 1994 the manifesto said that our country needed peace. We needed to end the violence against communities and the abuse of women and children. It was required of our government to commit to dealing firmly with the violence and crime.

In the 1999 ANC manifesto the ANC had on the programme: combating crime and corruption, to get tough on the underlying causes of crime such as poverty and inequality and tough on crime and corruption, itself.

In our 2004 election manifesto, we said we must improve the security of all South Africans, and make life more and more difficult for criminals as well as crooks in private companies and government structures who steal and cheat.

The ANC and the ANC government has always shown that it is interested in building safe communities for all South Africans to be safe. We have never shyed away from that.

We see that the ANC has always taken the security of all South Africans into
consideration. As the Honorable president said on Friday "since 1994 we have worked to transform the South African Police Services, as my honorable comrades will talk about, and other institutions of the criminal justice system to serve all our people more effectively and to work to safeguard their safety and security.

We have increased the numbers of police personnel, improved systems of coordination and management, and improved the efficiency of our courts and prosecution services. Yet as the honorable president continued to say that "all our efforts will not succeed unless we make tangible progress in addressing the socio-economic conditions that feed crime and violence,"I agree with the Honorable President that the police service and government agencies cannot fight crime alone, and that it requires the involvement and active participation of all communities and all sections of society to meet this challenge of getting rid of crime.

We must all stand united against crime (Jan 8th) Every year, since 1998, from the 25th November to 10th December, South Africa takes part in the campaign: 16 days of activism for no violence against women and children.

South Africa uses this international and UN recognized campaign annually to generate increased awareness of the negative impact of violence against women. It starts on the 25th of November which is the International day for no violence against women. This day was also chosen to commemorate the death of the Mirabal sisters in 1960 by the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.

And ends on the 10th of December which is an International Human Rights day. During that 16-day period, there are also two other important international commemoration dates; 1st of December which is also international HIV/AIDS day and the 3rd of December which is the International day for the Disabled. Days which are also recognized and celebrated here in South Africa.

We have seen an increased in abuse against women and children, vulnerable groups in our community. The President of the ANC has mentioned that there will be an extensive mass campaign to mobilize communities to assume leadership in the struggle for peace, stability and safer places to live. The campaign will also seek to strengthen partnerships between communities and the police services and between the public and private sectors.

This campaign will also pay particular attention to crimes of violence, especially the violence against women and children.
We will extend the campaign of the 16 days of activism against women and child abuse to be a year long effort, 365 days of activism so that no one forgets that violence against women and children is just not be tolerated.

When we think of building a safe community, we must also think of other vulnerable groups in our communities, such as people with disabilities and the elderly. They are also abused and sometimes in many silent ways.

People with disabilities are many times not understood. Forexample when a person with a mental disability is abused. How can this person explain to the police what had happened. When a person with multi-disabilities is abused, no one believes that person.

When Deaf children are sexually abused or raped by educators, the cases are thrown out of court, because the staff in the court did not take the time to make sure that a qualified and accredited Sign Language interpreter is called to the court. When a deaf person who has never been to school, who has never been exposed to Sign Language is a victim, it is important to use a Deaf person to act as a relay interpreter to assist the Sign Language interpreter. The courts do not want to take the time to do that, or take the time to understand why it must be done. Reporting should be handled with sensitivity by both the police and the staff in the courts.

They also need sensitivity training and training on how to work with people with

disabilities. The elderly, when they report a problem, like the abuse of their pensions - it is sometimes looked at as a domestic problem and not as abuse to be dealt with and taken seriously. The elderly also need understanding from people who work with them.

Protection orders should be used correctly and enforceably, instead of being ignored, and the Domestic violence act implemented. Women also need to be aware and understand their right to protection under the Domestic Violence Act

There should be physical access to police stations and to the courts.

All vulnerable groups should feel they are indeed living in a safe community.

In my area, there were elderly people being murdered, and it was done by people they do know. People they trusted enough to open the door to let into their homes, people such as the gardeners or someone in the community that they have seen often. One of

the police in my area had called the elderly together to warn them, that crimes against the elderly are done by people they know and trusted. He discusses with them the need to be careful.

The need for community involvement cannot be over emphasised. I just read about a mother beating her child to death. The neighbours heard and yet did nothing, because they didn\'t want to get involved. Where then is the slogan "every child is my child".

We have our community development workers and they can be used to be mediators between disabled person, children or elderly people and the police is one way.

In parliament issues of abuse of women and children were also discusses and highlighted such as

  • Parliament Task Group on sexual abuse of children
  • In the Women\'s parliament issues of domestic violence was discussed and in the
  • Last women\'s parliament issues of trafficking of women and children were discussed and highlighted

We now have the children\'s bill signed by the honorable president, where in section 18 of the bill a comprehensive section on trafficking of children is discussed for the first time. Trafficking is discussed as a crime. The bill also provides messages to look after the interest of children, also discussing cross border issues.

Members of Parliament also play an important role of oversight where we oversight laws, and the work done by different departments and stakeholders regarding the protection of women, children, disabled people and the elderly as we continue to work for building a safe community for all our people and a better life for all.