Youth Day celebrations but police still hunt missing children

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Youth Day was not a celebration for every Western Cape child yesterday (June 16) as police were still on the hunt for 16 children gone missing in the province this year.

Among these was eight-year-old Kiana Williams from Grassy Park who was reported missing last Tuesday.
Captain FC Van Wyk, spokeperson for the Western Cape police, confirmed that since the start of this year a total 58 children had been reported missing. Forty-two children were found; including Octavia Hendricks, 14, who went missing earlier this month and has since been reunited with her family.

But the other 16 remain had still not been found. Van Wyk said most of these children have gone missing in Nyanga, Delft and Mitchell’s Plain.

Patric Solomons, director of Molo Songololo, said yesterday “we have made progress with the implementation of legal mechanisms but we are still failing our children”. This long-standing group in Cape Town focuses on children’s rights.

“Our youth unfortunately still face many challenges. Youth Day is an opportunity to recommit to young people. We need to make sure that they are empowered. We are not doing well,” said Solomons.

“Many children are in families where there is poverty and they don’t have the right to food security. Education is also a right but still too many children drop out of school for social reasons. Parents and authorities should be held responsible for failing our children.”

He added: “Our children, in cases of abuse, neglect and violence, don’t see justice when investigations go wrong or they don’t have money to get legal services.”

Youth Day was this weekend also a time for reconciliation among the country’s different race groups. The Cape Town-based Institute for Justice and Reconciliation organised a Youth Reconciliation Camp, which ends on Wednesday, for 30 young people from different backgrounds.

They will tackle the “progress of reconciliation in South Africa” while aiming to “understand how different groups of people and communities live”.

Apart from children going missing, young people do also not have equal access to education in the Western Cape. Thousands of protesters, mobilised by non-profit Equal Education, are expected to march to Parliament in Cape Town today (MONDAY) for better school infrastructure. A similar event is planned for the same time in Pretoria.

The protesters will call on education minister Angie Motshekga to make public the “minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure”.

The University of Cape Town’s student representative council this weekend also called on Motshekga to publish the school infrastructural basics.

City officials meanwhile organised alongside NGOs a host of sports and cultural events for young people over the weekend. This included a mountain hike, netball tournament, five-a-side soccer tournament and hip hop festival.

Youth Day is an annual memorial day marking the start of the Soweto student uprisings against apartheid’s enforcement of Afrikaans at black schools. It honours the youth who died while facing off with police on June 16, 1976.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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