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Pillars of Child Protection Collapsed

This week Terence Pillay launches his series of Special Reports in the spate of child abuse cases in the Phoenix, Inanda and Verulam cluster. 

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Listen to today's Good, Bad and Ugly below, or read the details under the podcast.

When I first started working in television in 1992, I worked on a show called Essence on East Net. And the first story I ever did for Essence was a 54-minute documentary on child abuse in Durban. During the making of the doccie, I began questioning whether I actually had the stomach for this kind of work. I was all of 22-years-old and interviewing paedophiles, people who had physically abused their children and the children themselves – among a slew of other role players.

The stories were chilling and harrowing and I was very disturbed by them for many years after. I promised myself then that I would continue to shine a light on this scourge through my work and I have since done a number of stories for shows across the broadcast spectrum – even though with each disturbing case study, I was very tempted to get out of investigating this subject matter.

But I stuck it out and now, 26-years-later I find myself at the center of yet another investigation into child abuse in Durban. A shocking 2 minute video emerged recently showing a Phoenix mother repeatedly kicking and hitting her daughter, while her boyfriend filmed it with his cellphone and gave instructions. The video outraged the local community who demanded action from the police or they were going to take matters into their own hands.

The mother in the video went into hiding after she was arrested and given bail. Her boyfriend asked for his bail to be revoked after a community, seemingly tired of the lack of action against child abuse in Phoenix where the incident took place, set fire to his car.

The fact is: this is just one story in an anthology of hundreds of others like it. Alvin Brijlal of VOICE, the Victims Outreach Center in Phoenix says his organisation sees up to 150 cases of abuse a month, and of that, more than a third involves a child.

A chat with Alvin usually yields stories like the time he had to identify the remains of a young child who had been killed by his grandfather because the old man was having problems with his wife, the child’s grandmother. The child began crying and the old man broke his hand to stop him, then killed him and buried him in a shallow grave. The child’s body was so badly decomposed that he could only be identified by a birthmark on his hand.

Then there was the case of the 12-year-old girl who arrived at school with terrible bruises. Alvin was called in and interviewed the child and found that her father had been sticking office pins into her body because she didn’t finish the house work in time. The child was only 12-years-old. The girl’s mother, they discovered, was also being abused by this horrible man.  

VOICE also dealt with the case of a man who was arrested for beating up his children and wife. When they arrived at the house his 10-year-old son started hurling vulgar abuse at the police and had to be restrained. The police found a stash of pornography above the man’s bed, which he admitted to watching with his 10-year-old child.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing stories was that of a man who sexually abused his nieces aged seven and eight. The girl’s mother took her brother in and allowed him to share a bed with he daughters. While he raped the one child, he made the other stand guard at the door and then swapped them around.

The cases are all heartbreaking and beg the question – what has happened to the pillars of protection that are meant to safeguard our children from this kind of abuse.

So from Monday 18 June 2018, I am bringing you a special report on the scourge of child abuse in the Phoenix, Inanda and Verulam cluster. I chat with the role players in an attempt to find out why the system is failing these children.

I also speak exclusively to the mother who beat up her child while her boyfriend filmed the incident and the child’s biological father. The mother has not been interviewed before. 

Tune in every day at 8.40am. It’s an investigation no parent should miss.

You can email Terence Pillay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @terencepillay1 and engage with him there.  

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