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The roll-out of a City initiative which seeks to expedite action when children disappear comes as child safety is squarely in the spotlight. 

The City of Cape Town is using its Women in Rental Stock Programme to drive a new initiative aimed at fast-tracking missing person cases, particularly in instances where children disappear. The Western Cape has experienced a surge in cases of missing children in recent months, several with devastating outcomes. 

The initiative aims to ensure a rapid response through coordination of various entities when a person goes missing. Role-players include the City, the South African Police Service, non-governmental organisations, and communities.

The City’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Department will, in conjunction with the local ward councillor and community structures, identify candidates to act as suburb coordinators in identified areas. In addition, training will be provided to communities on how to coordinate, respond to, report and participate in the event of a missing person case, including using social media as a communication platform.

‘The hours immediately following a person disappearing present a small window of opportunity to find them. Recent research has revealed that it takes a little as two hours to move a person out of the province. It is therefore imperative that we are able to launch a well-coordinated response as soon as possible,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security; and Social Services, Alderman JP Smith.

The initiative is being rolled out in Lotus River, Ravensmead, Uitsig, Hanover Park, Athlone, Manenberg, Lavender Hill and Macassar. Among others, it aims to:

  • raise the alarm with the suburb coordinator timeously
  • make photographs and a description of clothing worn available for briefing search parties, pamphlets and circulation on social media
  • alert City enforcement agencies to shut down access to the suburb, search all vehicles, and engage use of CCTV and public address systems to sensitise the community
  • brief and mobilise community search parties

‘We’re starting the initiative in our communities where the Women in Rental Stock Programme is in place because they are already active in their communities and familiar with the landscape. This is in line with our Organisational Development and Transformation Plan, which seeks to bring services and assistance closer to communities. The success of this initiative will depend on those involved. We’re losing too many children to predators and while this initiative is not a silver bullet, it is a start to ensuring a more comprehensive response during those critical hours in the immediate aftermath of a kidnapping or disappearance,’ added Alderman Smith.

In another child safety initiative, the Social Development and Early Childhood Development Department hosted an event in Parow on Thursday 1 June 2017 to mark International Children’s Day.

The purpose of the event was to sensitise children, parents and ECD staff on the rights and responsibilities of a child, but also to inform parents how to provide an adequate standard of living for their children’s physical, mental and social development.

‘The well-being of children is everyone’s responsibility. This includes parents, the community, and all three spheres of government. Children who start out with a solid basic education grow into more productive and socially confident adults. A child’s basic education starts with the Early Childhood Development centre that he or she attends and that is why it is so important that each of the more than 2 500 ECDs in Cape Town are registered so that each child is given a fair opportunity to prosper and grow,’ said Alderman Smith.

The event afforded the children an opportunity to showcase their talents and the stages in their growth through recitations and songs. Parents were educated on the importance of a good quality ECD programme and the importance of child safety. Finally, ECD operators were informed on how to improve and implement a quality ECD programme and the benefits thereof.

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