Let us deal harshly with child abuse

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Whenever police release crime statistics, one area that ought to make headlines but seldom gets serious mention is the issue of child abuse.

Murder, rape and other contact crimes such as assault rightly capture the imagination of many people, but save for the odd campaign here and there and some politicians mouthing off about their dedication to the fight against abuse of women and children, the crime remains very much part of our existence yet it is not regarded as serious enough.

Just yesterday newspaper headlines and news on other platforms told of the ordeal of two Soweto primary school pupils at the hands of a police officer - someone who would in a normal society be delegated to give refuge for abused children.

AB Xuma Primary School in Soweto, made headlines last year when it emerged that yet another adult - a scholar patroller - had allegedly sexually molested 87 pupils. It was a shocking story that many hoped would culminate in justice being done rather than this unfortunate sequel.

Here is a man of the law asked to help bring justice to a group of children whom society had failed - inadvertently or otherwise - turning into a monster. Police officers are meant to be the first port of call when crime comes knocking on our doorsteps or happens behind closed doors in our homes, as abuse often does.

They are meant to serve and protect; and society would naturally raise its levels of expectation when it happens that those in need of such service and protection are children and women.

In numerous interviews since his return to policing - this time as minister - Bheki Cele has trumpeted the need to prioritise the fight against the abuse of children and women.

That pledge will continue to ring hollow if levels of service in the police service are not improved. It is fair to imagine that the case of the original sin committed against our children at AB Xuma primary has been compromised.

Why was a man - policeman or not - left to his devices with fragile children in a case we should all be expecting police to handle with utmost care? Why was a social worker not assigned to the case?

It is not enough to let the alleged perpetrator to be the only culprit made to answer for this violation of the most vulnerable in our midst.

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