Fight for 17-year-olds

Government has failed in the constitutional duties it owed to poverty-stricken teenagers who were among the most vulnerable in South African society, the Pretoria High Court was told yesterday.

Government has failed in the constitutional duties it owed to poverty-stricken teenagers who were among the most vulnerable in South African society, the Pretoria High Court was told yesterday.

Advocate Alan Dodson argued on behalf of Florence Mahlangu, who asked the court to force the Social Development Department to extend child care grants to teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17.

Mahlangu brought the case not only as the mother of two children, who were potential beneficiaries of the system, but also on behalf of about 2 million poor South African teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 who presently did not qualify for the grant.

Dodson said South African teenagers faced a crisis.

Some 70% of them were poverty stricken. The great majority found themselves eking out an existence in impoverished rural areas where unemployment was endemic. For them, the new constitution had delivered none of its promises.

He said there was a strong trend among the age group to abandon their education in a desperate attempt to earn a meagre living.

That drove many of them to the worst forms of child labour. This included assisting adults in the commission of crimes, commercial sexual exploitation children, child trafficking, working in shebeens and scavenging on hazardous waste dumps.

The application, opposed by the Ministers of Social Development and Finance, continues.-Sapa

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