Friday, 2 June 2023 saw over 500 children and adults, mostly from the Bhambayi community, take to the streets in support of the fight to protect children against abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation. They want better: at the very least for their children to walk around safely. The area shoulders appalling failures from municipality and policing, exacerbated by the fact that it is divided into the smaller part of three different wards. This means that no one official is accountable or fighting for the improvement of the community. It also makes it nearly impossible to work together as a community for change. But not totally impossible, as Friday’s march bore witness.
The Bhambayi Project who has been working in this community for 16 years has been alarmed by the increasing cases of child rape and abuse that have been brought to them. What has been just as alarming to them has been the failure of the government systems and structures to protect these children. One example is the number of rapists that are let out on bail, despite this being a schedule 6 offense where bail should be nearly impossible.
“Heading into Child Protection Week this year, it felt imperative to take action, together with our children, to enable their voices to be heard. Not to simply let another awareness week go by, telling children how to keep safe and helping them if they become victims. We need to see change in the structures and systems that are currently not working to hold rapists accountable,” says Bhambayi Project CEO, Mandy Pearson.
The sentiment of the Bhambayi Project’s efforts is perfectly explained in the words of late Bishop Desmond Tutu: “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”
“We celebrate the progress we have seen. The rapist in the true story video shared on our social media platforms has been re-arrested and the magistrate removed from that court and is under investigation. We have other cases we are working on with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), but this is not about individual cases where someone can shout for the children, this is about ensuring the systems and structures are working as they should for all the children of South Africa,” adds Pearson.
The work of the Bhambayi Project is to enable orphans and vulnerable children to become courageous agents of change. This is achieved through relationships and empowerment.
“We believe that community involvement is imperative. This march is a celebration for us, as we saw children courageously using their voices, and the community coming together to see change.”
In consultation with leaders in both the police and the justice system, the Bhambayi Project arrived at 7 basic demands to help protect children and to ensure their voices are heard.
“This petition was handed over by ten children who sang and recited poems that they had written about protecting children. The petition was received by Mr. Magubane, the senior public prosecutor at the Ntuzuma Magistrates Court on behalf of Advocate Elaine Zungu, KZN Director of Public Prosecution, and Colonel Ndaba, the Inanda Station Commander from the SAPS. We are delighted to have received over 8 000 signatures in support of this petition which is a wonderful start in the fight for our children.”
Detailed descriptions of the 7 demands, as well as the Child Protection video, are available on the Bhambayi Project website www.bhambayiproject.co.za.
Photo credit: Paigel Chetty
Bhambayi Project is a registered NPO who empowers orphans and vulnerable children, together with their guardians, through a community-based orphan support model. Their aim is to ignite tangible hope through re-storying lives, building bridges and challenging mindsets in order to change narratives across our nation.