Premier Helen Zille and ANC MPL Cameron Dugmore are accusing each other of misleading the public with regards to Zille’s failure to appoint a provincial children’s commissioner as promised in 2009.
Dugmore told The Citizen that Zille “lied” due to the fact that it has been eight years since she announced in her state of the province address that she would be appointing the commissioner.
“The ANC is seeking a direct meeting with Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to lay a complaint about this matter,” he said, and added that the meeting would seek clarity on “other matters which have not been completed by the previous public protector and new complaints.”
The ANC in the Western Cape, in its capacity as opposition party in the legislature, previously expressed its dissatisfaction with how former public protector Thuli Madonsela handled the TBWA Hunt Lascaris investigation.
The report titled, “Yes, we made mistakes” concluded that “the allegation that the tender for the procurement [of TBWA] was not properly advertised [and] is inconsistent with the evidence and information obtained”.
Because of this, Dugmore is saying the ANC in the legislature believes Zille is not “fit and proper” to continue leading the province. He added that she “has caused hurt to many South Africans, in a province left with deep scars from colonialism and slavery”.
He denied that the ANC itself failed to appoint the children’s commissioner before it lost power to the DA.
“When the ANC was in power, a submission had been prepared for consideration by the Western Cape cabinet. The resignation of Premier Rasool and the loss of the 2009 elections contributed to the commissioner not being appointed. Premier Zille and the DA have had eight years,” he said.
Zille, through her spokesperson Michael Mpofu, said the ANC is “grandstanding” and “flogging a dead horse”.
“It should be noted that the ANC was part of the government in the Western Cape between 2001 to 2009, working under the same provincial constitution. No commissioner for children was appointed during that period,” he said in a statement emailed to The Citizen.
Instead, Mpofu explained the only thing that happened under the ANC’s rule was the scrapping of the specialist child protection unit in the SAPS, which has had extremely adverse effects in the efforts to combat crimes against children.
The Western Cape is currently plagued by sadistic crimes against children, including, but not limited to, abduction, rape, physical abuse and murder.
“It is therefore hypocritical and wrong for the ANC to now to claim that a children’s commissioner could prevent crimes against children. They know this is wrong, and a glance at the constitutional mandate of such a commissioner demonstrates that this is not the case,” Mpofu added.
The provincial government, according to Mpofu, is at an advanced stage in the research and policy-making process required in order to finalise the appointment of the children’s commissioner.
He said this is necessitated by a need to eliminate the duplication as there are already Chapter 9 institutions, as well as national and provincial departments, mandated to perform functions outlined in the Western Cape constitution.
“This means that in appointing a commissioner, the role needs to be defined in such a way that it adds value, rather than duplicates existing functions of other bodies,” Mpofu explained.
Mpofu also informed The Citizen that to augment the gap that may have been created by the absence of the commissioner, the province allocated R651.5 million towards children-oriented services, such as early childhood development; child and youth care centres; drop-in centres that render critical child protection services and therapeutic services rendered by social workers.
Katherine Hall of the University of Cape Town’s children’s institute agrees with Mpofu that “there has been some movement on the idea of a provincial children’s commissioner.”
She said during the 2016 state of the province address, Zille “commissioned the development of a policy guideline to conceptualise and define the function and role of a children’s commissioner.”
Hall said several stakeholder meetings were held with government and civil society organisations to discuss the policy guideline, which was subsequently submitted to the Premier’s office at the end of 2016.
“It therefore seems disingenuous and untimely to say that the Premier ‘lied’ or should be taken to court over this,” she said.