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Address by hon Gijimani Skosana (ANC) MP, debate on the Child Justice Amendment Bill in the National Assembly

27 November 2018

"History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children."

Speaker, these were the words of the late former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan. With the African National Congress's position on the protection and promotion of the rights of the child; the paramountcy of the rights of the minor child; our 54th National Conference resolution to improve the child justice system in mind; it goes without saying the ANC supports this Amendment Bill.

The Child Justice Amendment Bill mainly amends section 7 of the Act, dealing with the minimum age of criminal capacity of children. Section 7 is amended to provide that a child under the age of 12 years does not have criminal capacity and cannot be prosecuted, and a child who is 12 years or older but under the age of 14 years is presumed not to have criminal capacity, unless the State proves beyond reasonable doubt that the child has criminal capacity.

The amendment to increase the minimum age of criminal capacity of a child from 10 years to 12 years has necessitated a number of consequential amendments in various sections to the Act. Sections 10, 41, 49 and 67 relating to the consideration of diversion of a child are amended to remove reference to criminal capacity of a child.
The Freedom Charter's call for imprisonment to be aimed at re-education and not vengeance and the Ready to Govern document reflect the restorative justice position of the ANC.

As the ANC, we have placed an increased emphasis on the effective rehabilitation and reintegration of children in order to minimise the potential for re-offending (recidivism). We introduced diversion programs because we believe in giving people, especially the youth, second chances in life. While it is necessary to correct wrongful behaviour and ensure accountability in children who are in conflict with the law, it is important to always remember that they cannot be treated as adults simply because their levels of consciousness and cognition are different to those of adults. In building a society, we will never win if we do not build children and effectively correct them when they have transgressed.

Research has shown that there is a strong link between socio-economic inequalities and crime. The Oxfam report conveyed that South Africa is the most unequal society in the world. We are aware that many of the children in conflict with the law come from the lower economic rungs of society who happen to be black. While we do not condone crime, we are also aware that there are many child-headed homes and often, those children tend to resort to criminal activity to support their families. It cannot be that we promote the imprisonment of young children while there are other measures of correction which can be employed first.

Correcting behaviour is not just a Department of Justice and Correctional Services matter. It involves the Departments of Social Development, Education, Health, the departments in the JCPS cluster and more especially, society at large. The ANC supports this Bill.

Hon Speaker I thank you.

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