Statistics, Interventions & Programmes relating to violence and murder of children: SAPS briefing

Social Development

25 October 2023
Chairperson: Ms N Mvana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee on Social Development held a virtual meeting to address issues related to violence and murder of children. The Deputy National Commissioner of Crime Detection of the South African Police Service (SAPS), Lieutenant General S Sibiya, emphasised SAPS’ commitment to addressing crimes against women and children and presented the programmes established to address these issues. SAPS derives its mandate to protect children from violence and murder from various legal acts, including the Children's Act and Domestic Violence Act.

SAPS provided statistics indicating a 6.2% decrease in child murders at the national level in the 2022/23 financial year, with notable variations in different provinces. The presentation highlighted the reasons for child murders, including domestic disputes, social disputes, and gang-related incidents including cases of rape-related child murders and vigilantism.

SAPS detailed the conviction rates and notable sentences for crimes against women and children in the 2021/22 financial year and 2022/23. The presentation also discussed various programs and interventions, including Child Protection Week including other awareness campaigns and initiatives to combat child trafficking.

Members of the Committee engaged in a discussion with SAPS, raising concerns about the prevalence of child murders in certain provinces, the impact of drug abuse on children's involvement in crimes, and the normalisation of violence in communities. The Committee also inquired about the support and counselling services for SAPS officers who work with traumatic cases.

SAPS responded to the questions and concerns, highlighting the efforts that are being taken to address child murders and related issues. SAPS emphasised the need for community engagement and comprehensive strategies to protect children and reduce violence. SAPS also discussed their collaboration with other government departments and NGOs to respond to the issues at hand.

Meeting report

Ms N Mvana (ANC), Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, officially opened the meeting and welcomed all to the meeting. Committee members were each allowed to introduce themselves. The delegation from the South African Police Service (SAPS) introduced themselves as well.

Apologies were acknowledged.

Briefing by the South African Police Service (SAPS) on violence and murder of children

Lieutenant General Shadrack Sibiya, Deputy National Commissioner: Crime Detection, SAPS,  introduced the delegation from SAPS. In his opening remarks, he said that crimes against women and children remain a heart-breaking issue for SAPS and this is something that the department has prioritised. Hence the department will present to the Committee programmes that have been put in place to respond to these issues.

Major General S Pienaar, Acting Divisional Commissioner: Visible Policing and Operations, SAPS,  took the Committee through the presentation indicating that children in South Africa live in a society with a Constitution that has the highest regard for their rights and the equality and dignity of everyone. The protection of children from violence, exploitation and abuse is not only a basic right but also an obligation set out in Article 28 of the Constitution of South Africa.

SAPS gets its mandate for the protection of children from murder and violence from Section 150 of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005, the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 amended in 2023, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters or SORMA) Amended Act 32 of 2007, Child Labour Programme of Action and the Child Justice Act 75 of 2008.

In support of the Children's Act of 2005, SAPS developed National Instruction 3 of 2010 – the Care and Protection of Children that provides detailed directives to SAPS members in support of the implementation of the Children Act of 2005 and SORMA of 2007.

Maj Gen Thulare Sekhukhune, Component Head: Crime Registrar, said that the SAPS' focus in the presentation was on contact crimes, where the perpetrator is known to the victim. Focused on the national data, compared to the 2021/22 financial year, in the 2022/23 financial year, there was a 6.2% decrease in the murder of children; attempted murder of children increased by 4.1% in 2022/23; assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm decreased by 0.4% in 2022/23, and common assault increase by 7.4% in 2022/23.

Although at a national level, crimes against children decreased by 6.2% in the 2022/23 financial year compared to 2021/22, Gauteng had an increase of 37.4%, the Eastern Cape increased by 36.2%, and Free State increased by 26.0%. The Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal (KZN) recorded a decrease of 65 child murders in 2022/23 compared to 2021/22, and other child murder decreases are notable in Limpopo (55 fewer murders), Mpumalanga (27 fewer murders), North West (11 fewer murders), and Northern Cape (1 less murder).

SAPS has also looked at the circumstances that have led to the murder of the children per province. What has been observed is that of the murdered children, 21 were because of domestic disputes. Most cases related to child murder because of a social dispute were recorded in Gauteng (7 cases), North West (5 cases), Limpopo (3), and Western and Eastern Cape (2 cases each).

In 2022/23, 54 children were murdered because of incidents emanating from arguments or misunderstandings. Most of the cases attributable to arguments or misunderstandings were recorded in the Eastern Cape (16 cases), Western Cape (14 cases), and KZN (10 cases).

All 38 gang-related child murders happened in the Western Cape. This would be instances whereby children are members of a gang and then due to territorial fights, end up being murdered. In other instances, children would be murdered in a crossfire when gangs are fighting.

Three child murders were rape related. This would be instances whereby a child was raped and then murdered or the other way round. 2 cases were reported in KZN and 1 in the Western Cape.

Major General Sekhukhune added that 15 child murders were because of vigilantism and the Eastern Cape accounted for most of these murders (7 cases) followed by KZN (4 cases). The other cases were in Gauteng (1 case), Limpopo (1 case), Mpumalanga (1 case), and Western Cape (1 case).

Brigadier V.V Pudumo, Section Head: Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences, Division: Detective and Forensic Services, SAPS,  added that the convictions and notable sentences for crimes against women and children in the 2021/22 financial year, for sentences from 1 to 20 years and above, SAPS achieved a total of 19 697 of years imprisonment handed down to 1 705 accused persons in 1 830 cases. In terms of life sentences, 401 imprisonments were handed down to 265 accused persons in 318 cases. In 2022/23, the convictions and notable sentences for crimes against women and children, for sentences from 1 – 20 years and above, SAPS achieved a total of 15 864 of years imprisonment handed down to 1 400 accused persons in 1 591 cases. Regarding life sentences, there were 415 imprisonments handed down to 250 accused persons in 318 cases.

Regarding programmes and interventions, Major General Pienaar said that the programmes that SAPS is currently working on include the development of regulatory frameworks that are handled by the SAPS' Legal and Policy Services. This includes the training of members in the handling of children; the development and implementation of the SAPS Children's Programme and Safe School Programmes; Child protection weeks and awareness programmes; Crime Awareness Programmes on all levels of the organisation inclusive of Ministerial Community Izimbizo on Drugs and School Safety are conducted regularly.

Some SAPS interventions include compliance inspection of police stations to ensure compliance with the applicable regulatory framework regarding handling children and adherence to administrative processes in handling children in need of emergency protection and care to appropriate alternative care. There is also docket inspection and guidance on investigations.

Further, the Forensic Social Work Services (FSW) has been put in place. SAPS Forensic Social Workers are registered with the South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP) and they assist in crimes involving children.

The SAPS Children's Programme is an integrated initiative aimed at creating a local platform for collaboration and engagement between key government stakeholders, community members, and civil society. Its primary goal is to develop and implement comprehensive strategies to prevent and address crimes against children that also impact the broader community. Central to the programme is establishing Child Committees within police stations, tasked with identifying children at risk of falling victim to crimes and pinpointing the specific risk factors affecting them. Hotspot police stations are identified based on data indicating a high prevalence of such incidents. These Children's Committees comprise representatives from government departments and community organisations, and to date, 24 have been established, all under the leadership of the SAPS. Furthermore, the program aims to build enduring partnerships between the South African Police Service and the local community to enhance child safety and well-being.

Annually, SAPS actively participates in Child Protection Week awareness campaigns under the leadership of the Department of Social Development. These initiatives are designed to raise awareness about the importance of safeguarding children from harm and abuse. Furthermore, SAPS conducts ongoing awareness programs that address emerging trends and factors that render children particularly susceptible to crime victimisation. These programs are instrumental in keeping the community informed and vigilant.

As part of its child protection commitment, SAPS has partnered with the Department of Basic Education to execute the Schools Safety Programme. This initiative encompasses crime awareness and the response to safety concerns within school settings. Activities include searches for drugs and weapons that may pose a threat to school communities. Additionally, school liaison officers play a crucial role in educating children about the risks and emerging trends that make them vulnerable to crime, along with guiding them to build resilience against both becoming offenders and victims of crime.

SAPS actively collaborates with various government departments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and international organisations in comprehensive efforts to protect children and promote their well-being. These partnerships include participation in the National Child Care and Protection Forum (NCCPF) and the National Technical Inter-Sectoral Child Justice Steering Committee (NT ISCCJ) to implement legislation related to child protection and justice. Additionally, advisory NGOs play a critical role, and they participate in child protection programs at local levels based on availability. These collaborative initiatives collectively work to safeguard children from harm and ensure their rights and safety.

Maj Gen Pienaar concluded by indicating that SAPS maintains a steadfast commitment to delivering victim-centred services that cater to the unique needs of the most vulnerable, with a particular emphasis on children. This dedication is reflected in SAPS' close collaboration with sister departments within the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security and Social Cluster, civil society and NGOs. The SAPS’ strategic partnership with the Departments of Basic Education and Social Development is of notable significance. This collaboration is pivotal in the context of crime prevention, as it facilitates early intervention efforts for the benefit of both child victims and child offenders. By working in tandem with these key stakeholders, SAPS aims to address the needs and challenges of vulnerable groups, especially children, effectively, ultimately striving to make a positive impact on their safety and well-being.

See attached for full presentation


Ms L Arries (EFF) welcomed the presentation from SAPS and indicated that the presentation highlighted that most of the murdered children are in the Western Cape. For the children who are part of gangs in the Western Cape, does SAPS have an anti-gangsterism strategy to respond to these issues and rescue the children from the gangs?

What are the reasons for the notable increase in attempted murder cases in the Western Cape and North West provinces?

Concerning the life sentences handed down, Ms Arries wanted SAPS to specify what crimes resulted in life sentences.

Ms Arries expressed that the only time that SAPS is actively doing programmes with children is during Child Protection Week. This is concerning and should be investigated. Further, in so much as SAPS has strategies aimed at responding to violence and murder of children, there is no mention of child trafficking. SAPS should show the Committee the statistics relating to child trafficking as this is a growing challenge in the country.

Ms P Marais (EFF) thanked SAPS for availing themselves to brief the Committee. She indicated that because of drugs, many children find themselves committing crimes such as burglary and the like. SAPS should provide statistics for children who have been arrested because of drug abuse including crimes associated with drug abuse.

It is a concern that murder has been normalised and this is affecting children growing up in communities with high rates of murder, especially in provinces such as the Western Cape and KZN. This is a crisis and should be urgently attended to. And it is concerning that most of SAPS intervention programmes happen in schools in urban settings, leaving township schools behind.

There are instances where a police officer kills his whole family, including himself and children are caught in such things. Is there counselling that is provided to SAPS officers, given that they work in very stressful environments which may lead them to commit murder crimes because of domestic conflicts that trigger stress?

Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) highlighted that the task at hand is the protection of the most vulnerable, especially children who cannot advocate for themselves. However, the presented statistics of rape, murder and abuse are indicating that the intervention in place is not working. Undoubtedly, there is a need for more robust interventions from members of Parliament and society.

Ms van der Merwe said that it was her wish that interventions such as Child Protection Week happened every week to increase awareness about the issues affecting children.

Most of the crimes against children are prevalent in the Western Cape, KZN, and the Eastern Cape provinces. The presentation mentioned that SAPS has identified hotspot police stations. Does SAPS deploy social workers to work at these hotspot police stations?

Regarding the roles and responsibilities of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units located within SAPS, what is the daily operation of these units? Are these units deployed to the hotspots identified by SAPS? How many staff members do these units have?

Does SAPS have a toll-free or WhatsApp number that children can contact to report any form of abuse?

Concerning the issues of child trafficking, especially the sale of children through social media platforms, Ms van der Merwe echoed that this is a crisis that needs to be attended to. The December holidays are approaching, and children will not be at school but at home. Does SAPS have a specific plan to combat child trafficking? Furthermore, in a written response, Minister Bheki Cele said that SAPS was acquiring a particular software that would allow the police to monitor social media to detect instances of child trafficking. What is the status of acquiring the software?

There has also been an issue around the sale of counterfeit goods such as cookies to children. Is SAPS working to target the syndicates selling counterfeit goods to children in the communities?

SAPS will have to work closely with the Department of Education as a lot of work still needs to be done as schools are places where children can be taught about their rights, including ways to access help when needed.

The issue of baby savers still needs to be looked at very closely. The police usually work with NGOs with baby savers however, baby savers have been outlawed in Gauteng. This will lead to more problems as it will result in more women having to abandon their babies.

Mr D Stock (ANC) appreciated the presentation from SAPS and in as much as there is a notable reduction in the number of child murders as the statistics presented to the Committee by SAPS. However, the overall persistence of crimes against children across the different provinces remains a concern.

Mr Stock applauded SAPS for the work to respond to the issues at hand. This is clearly shown by the increase in the number of convictions of those who have been charged with crimes against children.

Violence and crime are disproportionately skewed towards vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities, the homeless, and the poor. Therefore, are SAPS intervention mechanisms strengthened to empower all children, particularly those who are at risk of abuse to be able to identify and report crimes?

Research has shown that children who experience violence are more likely to be violent towards their partners and children in adulthood. In terms of the statistics showing children who survived attempted murder and those who have suffered assault or any type of abuse. How is SAPS evaluating the impact of the psychological and emotional support offered to children to ensure that the cycle of violence is broken?

What is the impact of the rehabilitation programmes for perpetrators in deterring them from reoffending?

The presentation by SAPS indicated that misunderstanding at home was one of the reasons resulting in the murder of children. What strategies are being leveraged to support families and communities with better conflict resolution strategies including addressing the underlying socio-economic factors leading to violence including improving access to mental and emotional support services?

Ms J Manganye (ANC) appreciated and welcomed the presentation from SAPS. Does SAPS have programmes that are focused on family violence awareness?

SAPS used to have an adopt a school programme. What happened to that programme as it was not mentioned in the presentation?

Ms A Hlongo (ANC) welcomed the SAPS presentation. In the previous financial year, it was noted that there were challenges with the 10111-management call centre with about 26.44% hung or abandoned calls with an average response time of 8 minutes to 35 minutes. How has this been addressed in the current financial year to increase public faith in SAPS and ensure children and citizens can efficiently reach authorities?

KZN and Limpopo have recorded low rates of child murders. What are the key success drivers in lowering child murder rates in these provinces?

What have been the performance and strategy implications of the additional financial allocation for strengthening FCS units such as the Eastern Cape which demonstrated a spike in child murders?

What leakages exist between the 24 established children committees for research and the best practice information sharing? What partnerships have been established and are being pursued to strengthen strategies against digital crimes such as cyberbullying, child pornography and luring children for human trafficking?

The Chairperson asked if the statistics that SAPS has presented on child murders in the Eastern Cape include the children who died at the Enyobeni Tavern.

Do police stations have offices that are dedicated to GBV cases?


Brig Pudumo said that on the question about the crimes that resulted in the life sentences, as shown in the presentation, these convictions emanated from crimes against women and children. Most of these crimes are sexual offences, murder, and child pornography.

Concerning the question about child pornography, within the FCS environment, there is a section that is responsible for serial and electronic crimes investigation including child pornography. What is also being done is having awareness campaigns in schools, specifically focusing on child pornography including safety tips. What has been noticed is that after every awareness campaign drive, the rate of reporting increases. She added that the awareness campaigns are done monthly, including going to schools and communities.

In its daily operations, nationally, 176 FCS units are servicing all the police stations in the country. There is also the serial and electronic crime investigation unit in all nine provinces, meaning, there are 185 FCS units. Regarding personnel, as of the end of September 2023, there were 2 331 staff members.

In terms of the counselling of children, Brig Pudumo said that part of the FCS function is to work with the Department of Social Development (DSD) so that sexually abused children are referred to DSD for counselling. Referrals are also made to DSD for families that need any form of counselling or social services. Within the FCS are forensic social workers, though they are not directly responsible for counselling as they work together with the investigating officer to assess children.

Maj Gen Sekhukhune indicated that the statistics, especially on contact crimes, are reflected within the crimes against children, which is almost the same phenomenon observed when looking at the crime statistics of the general population in the country. When looking at the quarterly crime statistics in the general population, most of the murders, attempted murders, assaults, and gender-based violence (GBV) happened in public places. However, murder at the level of the general population largely happens at the residence of the perpetrator or victim. It is also notable that some of the murders at the general population level happen in liquor outlets such as shebeens, taverns, pubs, and the like. Therefore, what is observable is that the murder of children is inherent in the general population largely due to the social aspects of communities such as substance abuse.

Maj Gen Sekhukhune said that the reason the presentation did not cover the murders that happened at schools including the rapes at special schools. The breakdown was presented in the quarterly report, and one should acknowledge that there are many variables that can be analysed, including the place of occurrence and the circumstances that led to the crimes. However, the current presentation briefing did not break down the cases to the places of occurrence but rather focused on the causative factors which led to these cases such as domestic disputes, arguments, misunderstanding, bullying at schools, gang-related causes, and the like.

On the issue of child trafficking, Major General Sekhukhune indicated that a breakdown showing child trafficking could be made available for the Committee. The reason this was not included in the presentation was that the focus was mainly on incidences captured in the dockets and the main causes of child murders.

Concerning the Enyobeni Tavern incident, where 21 children died, Maj Geb Sekhukhune said that he was unsure of the decision that was made about this case. But if a decision was made and the elements of crimes were met, then it would be included in the statistics. However, if this was captured as an inquest, then it would have been captured under inquest statistics.

Maj Gen Pienaar said that SAPS interventions are not isolated from the South African government's approach to addressing violence against vulnerable children, particularly those with disabilities or from disadvantaged groups. The government employs a national strategy to tackle gender-based violence, femicide, and violence against children and that is what also guides SAPS interventions including ensuring accessibility, investigating crimes, raising community awareness, and collecting data to inform both preventive and responsive actions. Major General Pienaar acknowledged that child offenders are part of the vulnerable group, with drug and gang-related issues as risk factors and SAPS’ role in substance abuse prevention places emphasis on supply reduction and working in partnership with schools to address risk factors. The police also maintain helplines and engage in ongoing community awareness programs. Further, a national plan for cybercrime and an initiative to improve the effectiveness of emergency call centres, such as 10111, have been implemented.

In response to questions regarding the high number of child fatalities in the Western Cape, Lieutenant General Sibiya mentioned that in a recent visit by the minister to the affected areas in the Western Cape, parents expressed concerns about their children's safety while going to school due to the risk of getting caught in gang crossfire. Consequently, a mobile police station was set up in certain areas to address this issue. Furthermore, SAPS is actively combating the drug trade, having arrested drug lords and raided drug labs. SAPS has also partnered with the National Liquor Trading Association to monitor compliance with trading hours and protect underage children from harm. SAPS engages with schools, conducting programs to check on children's well-being while aiming to allow children to experience a normal school environment without constant police presence. The SAPS app also has information on various assistance the public might need such as contacting the police or an ambulance. Lieutenant General Sibiya stressed the importance of a holistic approach, including parental responsibility in curbing issues related to children's activities around liquor establishments.

Social workers are attending to the challenges the police face. Some forensic social workers assist in criminal cases involving children. The police have victim-friendly offices designed to make children feel comfortable and provide a supportive environment when dealing with cases of abuse. SAPS takes matters related to the well-being of its officers seriously. Incidents of domestic disputes involving police officers can be challenging to prevent entirely, but steps are taken to address and support officers in such situations.

On the concerns related to individuals sending children to buy alcohol or distributing alcohol to minors, SAPS has partnered with the National Liquor Trading Association to form core teams that operate on the ground, ensuring that businesses comply with trading hours, underage alcohol sales, and illegal activities. Lieutenant General Sibiya emphasised the importance of a holistic approach involving the community, parents, and other stakeholders to collectively combat this challenge.

The Chairperson expressed gratitude and appreciation to the Deputy National Commissioner and the whole delegation from SAPS. She raised concerns related to unlicensed alcohol businesses and drug shops located near schools. However, there is hope that SAPS will work hand in hand with the community to address these issues. The Chairperson highlighted concerns about human trafficking and the safety of police officers.

The Committee adopted the meeting minutes of 11 October 2023, 13 October 2023, and 18 October 2023.

The meeting was adjourned.

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