Parents feel powerless

Amelia September said parents no longer have the right to discipline their children the way they want to because the state interferes.

The rights of parents when it comes to disciplining their children was discussed at a community dialogue hosted by the Manenberg Women’s League at Manenberg library last Tuesday, July 4.

Manenberg residents said they were tired of being told how to raise and discipline their children, and because of this they cannot hit their children as they can be threatened with legal action.

Community activist and dialogue co-ordinator, Amelia September, said while your child is your responsibility, the laws of the country and government have more say in homes than parents do.

She said this causes confusion among the household and particularly when parents reprimand their children for doing something wrong.

Ms September said when parents hit their children as a form of discipline, the children threaten to call the police and this allows them to be ill-disciplined. She said parents are not allowed to make their own decisions about their own children because the government, the police, and gangsters have already laid down the law.

This, she said, leads to disrespect from children towards their parents because they know that their parents are powerless.

Babalwa Mbalane, a social worker from the Department of Social Development, said if parents are experiencing behavioural problems with their children they can contact the department for advice.

“There are programmes available for children to be rehabilitated. Parents can also go to the Western Cape Children’s Court for intervention if the child poses a threat to the family,” she said.

Lanbela Dodose, a community worker from the department, said parents are urged to intervene when their children are young and contact the correct facilities for help. They should not wait until the situation becomes completely uncontrollable.

“Parents often protect their children until it is too late. They don’t take responsibility for their children.

“When we speak to school principals where a child has been expelled they often tell us that parents do not attend meetings requested by the school. There are facilities available for these children such as the City’s Matrix clinics or the Cape Town Child Welfare Society,” he said.

Community activist Eugene Oliver said these programmes are inaccessible to residents because they are either too full or there is too much red tape.

He said children are put on the waiting list and by the time there is place for them it is often too late as the children have been drawn into social ills.

Ms September said it was irrelevant at what stage of the problem the parent sought help for their child as long as they do actually get help.

She said parents took long to seek help because they felt they would not get the proper support.

“These laws that are in place are passing our communities. We need to figure out how to unite our government and the community so that they may develop a plan that works for both.

“There are many issues such as the age of consent, the age of criminality, who is considered a child and who is not a child. Our society doesn’t know how to handle these things anymore because they are constantly being dictated to. The gangs, the government and the police have a say but the parents have no say,” she said.

Founder of Women Impacting Change Western Cape, Gloria Veale-Oliver, said neither the Department of Social Development nor the government has the answer the community is looking for. She said the problem exists all over the Cape Flats and not only in Manenberg. She said the community needs to unite to say that these laws are not working for them because they have already lost control of their children to gangsterism.

Ms Oliver said before parents complain about their children’s behaviour, they must consider what type of role-models they are.

“What you pour into your children is what you will get out. If you slap them for any reason instead of having a reasonable conversation and explaining right from wrong, you will raise that type of child. Our society is broken. Evil has taken over our community and we need to start at grassroots level to fix it,” she said.

She suggested the community start dialogues with its women who are the mothers of their homes, to find solutions to the challenges facing the area. “We cannot play around with this, our children are being lost in the process but we need the resources to come to us – the community,” she said.

Women for Change Western Cape’s family counsellor, Carmen Samuels, said that women were forced to go out and seek employment to earn money for their families and because of that they cannot give all their attention to their households.

She said in many homes, the husband is earning a minimum wage or is unemployed.

Ms Samuels said a woman’s role must be reinstated in the community. “We need to get to know our neighbours again and take care of each other and be interested in each other. Our children need to see that we have concern for our neighbour so that they can learn from us,” she said.

The South Gauteng High Court last year ruled that parents who hit their children will no longer be able to raise a special defence if they are charged.

The ruling on October 19 follows the case of a 13-year-old boy whose father was charged with assaulting him with the intent to do grievous bodily harm as well as a second charge related to the assault of his wife. The father was found guilty by the Johannesburg Regional Court on both charges on the verdict of common assault.

The father appealed the convictions in the South Gauteng High Court where judge Raylene May Keightley, after hearing medical evidence on the nature and extend of the assault on the boy and requesting counsel for both the appellant and the State to make submissions and inviting interested parties to be joined as amici curiae (friends of the court) to make submission on the issue, ruled that the common-
law defence of reasonable chastisement is inconsistent with the constitution.

In practical terms the judgment means that parents who hit their children will no longer be able to raise a special defence if they are charged.