Address at the Justice & Peace Commission's March against Human Trafficking by Ms Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education Rabie Ridge Community Hall: 22 May 2010
DG of the Dept. Of Justice & Constitutional Dev., Ms Nonku Msomi
Chairperson of Justice & Peace Commission, Ms Jeanette Lesisa
Rep. of the Office of Minister Mayende-Sibiya
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me take this opportunity, after the long march through the streets of Midrand, to thank all present, particularly for your patriotism, devotion and selfless dedication to the noble cause of justice, peace, equality and respect for human rights.
Positive signals I've received today, written boldly on the faces of young and old, convinced me, in the most profound of ways, that today, through the gallant march against the malady of human trafficking, we have indeed succeeded in driving home the gospel truth that says: together we can defeat ‘modern day slavery', in all its horrendous forms!
We firmly believe that trafficking in human persons is a very serious problem undermining our collective effort to end exploitation, oppression, abuse and inequality. It is a form of enslavement that must be hunted and defeated if we are to achieve total emancipation of women.
The sad truth about this crime is that it mainly affects the most vulnerable among us – children and women.
I therefore want to say, at the very onset, that I have no better words for those who commit such base and cruel acts than the damning words of renowned poet, William Blake, when he said: “ thou art sick !”
Blake says in “The Sick Rose”,
O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
We know that William Blake was addressing a different subject, in another time, another place, and another context.
But, we will not be taking matters too far if we were to compare perpetrators of the crime of human trafficking to a “sick rose” that is sickened by “the invisible worm” of greed, callousness and sin that fly “in the night”, “in the howling storm”.
The selling and buying of women and children, as prostitutes, child slaves and drug runners, are matters of both national and international concern, because they utterly “destroy” lives of many innocent people, the world over.
Let me hasten to assure you that in South Africa, we have worked very hard since the dawn of democracy to protect women and children from abuse and human rights violations like trafficking. We have proactively put in place mechanisms better to protect the innocent.
Many will recall that our country has ratified the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children ( Palermo Protocol).
We have also ratified and adopted other important international instruments meant to protect and promote the rights of women and children.
These instruments include: the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women ; the Beijing Declaration , and the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development and its Addendum on the prevention and eradication of violence against women and children .
On the national front, we have adopted a democratic Constitution , one of the most progressive in the world, with an enshrined Bill of Rights. We have also committed resolutely to combat trafficking.
Yesterday, President Jacob Zuma launched Child Protection Week in Atteridgeville as part of our concerted effort to protect children, including during the FIFA World Cup period. For this year's Child Protection Week , our message is clear and simple: “Working together we can do more to develop caring communities that protect our children!”
This message can only be ‘clear and simple', if you all commit to working with us in making ours a caring society. Accordingly, we pay special tribute to the Justice & Peace Commission and all members of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church for showing, through mass mobilisation, your devotion and love for your fellow brothers and sisters.
It is not by accident that our democratic Government has singled out education as the apex priority.
Many will recall that in this year's State of the Nation address, President Zuma told the nation that: “ We have placed education and skills development at the centre of this government's policies”.
In the 2009 Election Manifesto , our time-tested national liberation movement, the African National Congress, made bold to say “education must be at the centre of our efforts to improve the potential of every citizen and enable each one of us to play a productive role in building our nation.”
As you well know, the five priorities of our government are: education, health, rural development and land reform, creating decent work, and fighting crime , in all its forms, including the sickening monstrous crime of trading in human beings.
It is these priorities, that must help us, qualitatively and in the most practical of ways, in delivering a better life for all our people.
Contrary to belief in some sections of our population, we have made great strides in making South Africa a safe and better place. That you have braved the streets of Midrand today, without the ugly smell of teargas, testifies to our efforts of turning democratic South Africa into a country in which “ All Shall Enjoy Equal Human Rights! ”.
In line with the Freedom Charter , we have made inroads in building a free society in which “the law shall guarantee to all their right to speak, to organise, to meet together, to publish, to preach, to worship and to educate their children”.
The huge responsibility entrusted upon us, as a department responsible for basic education, means that the hopes and aspirations of millions of our people rest squarely on our shoulders.
It is for these reasons, that our Department has taken a conscious decision to use education as a potent tool for empowerment, development and awareness-raising, in support of the fight against all forms of violence, abuse, denigration, exploitation and violations of basic human rights.
The focus of the Department of Basic Education regarding the protection of children is very broad and covers a wide range of issues, such as gender-based violence in all its forms, including, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse.
Our Department has gone further by developing Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Sexual Violence and Harassment in Public Schools and Measures for the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy .
Furthermore, the National Curriculum Statement deals with issues of abuse within the Life Orientation Learning Area.
It is very apparent that the climate of fear created in our country, for good or bad reasons, is closely linked to the World Cup. No matter how hard we try to show work done in preparation for the World Cup, the first on the African soil, some among us will still want to argue that this prestigious event is likely “to bring out the worst” in people.
Some of these concerns, as revealed in a recent study conducted by Molo Songololo, an NGO, include the perception that the World Cup “could lead to a potential increase in internal trafficking in children”.
My message to you is that “we have spent many years planning for this World Cup”, as President Zuma has said, and “we are determined to make a success of it”.
For the World Cup and beyond, we have taken the necessary steps to ensure that all people are and feel safe in our beautiful and hospitable country.
We believe that some of the initiatives we have taken to improve learning outcomes, including the matric pass rate, will assist in keeping children off the streets. For instance, some of our provincial education departments are planning winter schools for the holiday period.
Other Districts, like Ekurhuleni North, will be running School Holiday Projects intended to provide food and recreational facilities to vulnerable children in our schools, including those children who benefit from school feeding programmes during term.
As government, we can do as much, and there's always room for improvement. But at the end of the day, safety remains a responsibility of all of us.
We can make a difference with the support and active participation of all role-players, including: Faith-Based Organisations; Non-Governmental Organisations; Traditional leaders and Healers; community-based organisations; the business sector, parents and civil society as a whole.
An important point we must make is that creating safe communities is a societal responsibility.
Together we can turn our communities into safe, healthy, and habitable environments that are conducive for nurturing and socialising our young ones in harmony. I have no doubt that this is a dream firmly lodged in the gentle loving heart of every parent.
Every child is a national asset!
I thank you.