DA Debate Speech: Children’s Amendment Bill

Issued by Bridget Masango MP – DA Shadow Minister of Social Development
09 May 2024 in News

Note to editors: The following debate speech was delivered in parliament today by Bridget Masango MP and is embargoed until delivery. 

Honourable Chairpersons

The Portfolio Committee on Social Development missed another GOLDEN opportunity to protect South Africa’s children, going directly against the central purpose of the Children’s Act – to ensure that the Child’s best interest is paramount in all we do – by declaring that the Children’s Amendment Bill is not desirable.

This move by the predominantly ANC-led Committee, implied that children’s safety in facilities is not a priority to the South African government.

It’s astounding to say the least, as both the committee and the DSD ostensibly supported the content of the DA’s private members bill! They admitted there are shortcomings and gaps in the law that have left children in danger, and yet they chose to vote against the best interest of children – specifically those children in unregulated micro-partial care homes providing care to six or fewer children.

Chairperson, it was bizarre to hear ANC Committee Members claiming that they had not had the chance to see public comments on the Bill and so would not be able to vote it as desirable. But, as Parliamentary Legal Services and the DA correctly put it, a further hearing could simply have been scheduled to go through the public comments. Again, the ANC refused this simple solution because they were clutching at straws to find any excuse to find the Bill undesirable.

The children’s sector has raised the issue of child abuse in unregistered children’s care facilities, lack of monitoring of the standards of these facilities, and the lack of data on the number of children in these facilities. Again, clearly showing that these vulnerable children’s best interest is not a priority for an ANC government.  This Chairperson, flies in the face of lip service that the department pays by launching all manner of programmes aimed at children’s safety.

No amount of trying would convince the portfolio committee that, due to the lack of time left in this term, the Bill should stand over to the new term. Despite agreements from the ANC that there was no time and that this would be a solution, there was confusion, and the Committee failed to understand the difference between voting a Bill as ‘undesirable’ and ‘deferring it’.

So what is the direct impact of this uncaring act by the ANC members of the committee? Simply put: continuing to subject vulnerable children to deplorable conditions in micro-partial care facilities. Children will continue to be placed in risky often uninhabitable conditions, minded by untrained carers, subjected to potential abuse in facilities without the required basic norms and standards – such as running water and toilets.

Chairperson, perhaps now is the time to look at the real reason why the ANC voted against the Children’s Amendment Bill. It is not because they wanted to create a more comprehensive Bill, or because of the short time frame to process it, or even the human resources implications of the Bill.

It was purely because the DA offered the solutions to them on a silver platter, and as usual, the protection of children was trumped by their need to reject any solution from the DA, even if it means subjecting SA’s children to danger and risk. As has been proven over the years, it’s an ANC Bill or nothing – no matter how great the solution.

The DA will continue to advocate for the well-being and safety of South Africa’s children. As we inch closer to the elections on 29 May, let me assure South Africa’s children: in future, you can look forward to a government that will ensure both the legislative and policy environments are ready to protect you and not betray you.

The DA will re-introduce this Bill back into Parliament and ensure the protection of all our children – as enshrined in the Constitution.  South Africans have an opportunity on the 29th May to vote in a government that puts children’s lives and livelihood first, by voting for the DA.

Thank you Chairperson