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Published: 29 Nov 2011
|DA: Statement by Helen Zille, Democratic Alliance leader, calling on the Human Rights Commission to investigate Home Affairs negligence (29/11/2011)|
I have today written to the Human Rights Commission to request a full investigation into the role of the Department of Home Affairs in the death of the four Mmupele children in the North West province. The DA’s own investigation has discovered that the Department of Home Affairs potentially has a lot to answer for in this tragedy.
Sebengu (9), Mmapule (7), Olebongeng (6) and Oarabetswe (2) Mmupele all died of hunger and thirst in the veld as they went in search of their mothers who had gone to look for work or food on a neighbouring farm. They reportedly set out on their journey in a state of near starvation, and walked between 10 and 14 kilometres in the blazing sun before they collapsed and died of dehydration and hunger. First the smaller two, who were found lying together. Then, some distance away, the older two. As if it could get any worse, the 6-year old was disabled, walked with a limp, and suffered from TB.
No one should ever die in South Africa because of bureaucratic indifference by government. The circumstances of their sad deaths last week suggest that the Department of Home Affairs may have been negligent in failing to provide the basic government services which may have saved the lives of these four children. None of the children were able to receive social grants because neither of their mothers have ID documents. One does not have a birth certificate. Martha Mmupele says she has applied for an ID document several times. Elizabeth Mmupele has allegedly been told by the Department of Home Affairs that it will take more than six months to obtain a birth certificate. If this family had been able to apply for and receive social grants, they would likely not have suffered this terrible tragedy.
The Human Rights Commission is constitutionally mandated to investigate the violation of human rights, and to secure appropriate redress where necessary. We believe this case demands such an investigation. This may constitute a clear example of a government department neglecting its constitutional mandate to deliver the basic services on which the destitute rely, with direct and awful consequences for the human rights of those concerned. That these deaths occurred less than a week before the 16 Days of Activism against Abuse of Women and Children is a reminder that a government itself can be guilty of abuse, and when it is, it must be investigated to determine the facts and hold those responsible to account.
The DA will not drop this matter. In addition to our request to the Human Rights Commission, we have asked questions in the North West legislature, we have called for a special debate in the legislature, and we will continue to gather information from the family and friends of the children.