12th February, 2021
South Africa has been ranked as one of the most unequal states due to the growing disparity between the rich and the poor, high unemployment rates, high crime levels, and many other social ills. Disadvantaged communities have poor infrastructure and harsh living conditions, which expose children to high levels of neglect, harm, and injury in the home and community.
As Africa Unite youth, we are devasted by the untimely death of four boys from Gugulethu District, Cape Town: Iva Kalikopu (13), Azola Quweni (13), Nqabayethu Mlaza (12) and Axolile Mambangula (11). These lives were lost due to the collapse of a sand dune near the N2 at the Bocherds Quarry Road intersection on the 8th of February 2021. Like others, children played at the dunes and noted a hole they thought could serve as a playhouse. Unfortunately, the dune collapsed, closing in four of the boys and only allowing a fifth child (five years of age) to run home and report the event to their families.
We want to note that these children were part of the Africa Unite Children’s program that was initiated to keep children off the streets. Such a tragic incident is a true reflection of the need for action to be taken in response to the challenges faced by children living in informal settlements. This is not the first time we have raised the need to have playgrounds for these children, and sadly our pleas seem to be ignored.
The townships are overcrowded; hence, children tend to find other alternative playgrounds, leaving them more vulnerable to injury and even death. We are concerned that these children’s lives could have been spared if the City of Cape Town had fix this sand hole after receiving complaints from residents over two years ago.
This tragic incident happened during a critical period of COVID-19 where schools from the disadvantaged communities are closed, and the Africa Unite program is also temporarily closed.
Just imagine if these children were from the suburbs. This incident could have attracted more national and international outcry; even some authorities could have been fired but because these children are from a township, the sad event has been even forgotten barely a week after the tragic event.
We call on the City of Cape Town not to turn a blind eye on the reported and unaddressed service delivery challenges. These need to be addressed urgently and holistically to avoid similar incidences in the future.
The current open spaces behind the following informal settlements of Kanana, Europe, and Barcelona are not conducive for children to play in as there is a swamp with llegal dumping taking place. We are also disturbed that many of the children we work with have experienced traumatic events at Borcheds Quarry Road, such as the shootings and taxi violence that have become normal.
As Africa Unite’s youth, we remind the City of Cape Town not to ignore that every child has a right to life and the right to play in a safe environment.
We cannot continue to be bystanders – we will be opening a case for investigation with the Human Rights Commission as this incident could have been avoided.
For more information, please contact Silindokuhle Hlazo, Coordinator of the Singamakhalipha Children’s Program* at Africa Unite on +27 64 093 4393 or firstname.lastname@example.org
*This Press release is issued by Singamakhalipha Children’s Program together with Africa Unite’s youth. Based at the Gugulethu Sports Complex, the goal of the Singamakhalipha program is to provide holistic, psychosocial support to vulnerable children in townships. It intends to develop their confidence and ability to hope to dream – gives them a future and empowers them in life.
We want to build resilience and coping skills in our children so that they can face a wide range of social problems such as domestic violence, alcohol abuse, poverty and unemployment, child-headed households, sexual and gender-based violence, HIV/AIDS, and community violence, including xenophobia-related violence.