Muizenberg attracts people from all over Cape Town – and as a result it also attracts street children wanting to take advantage of the perceived “economic opportunities” available to them in the suburb that not only hosts residents but also weekenders and tourists.

Organizations operating in the area (from surf schools to SAPS) are therefore highly likely to interact with these children, and MID realized that there was a need to educate and equip members of these organizations to be effective in dealing with them from both a social and legal perspective.

To this end MID hosted a workshop for these organizations at The Hive on 12 July 2017, which was attended by surfing outreach organizations, MCSI (neighourhood watch), Safer Together, MID patrollers and cleaners and the Western Cape Street Children’s Forum. Unfortunately there was no representation from SAPS or Law Enforcement.

The focus was on educating attendees about the global phenomenon of street children: to understand why kids are on the streets, risk factors, interventions that work and don’t work, the importance of assessment of children and vetting of adults who will work with them, among others.

The Presenters:

Andrea Castle & Theodore Hendricks, social workers from the Department of Social Development, the dedicated team of two, who work with street children in the CBD and surrounding areas. They highlighted the plight of the street child, the harsh realities they face and the intervention strategies they have tried and tested.

Advocate Deon Ruiters (from the National Prosecuting Authority) covered the legal considerations when working with children. His experience in this field is far-reaching and his real life stories left an impression on those who attended.

These were some of the key points highlighted:

Why take to the streets?

Children do not choose to enter a world of poverty and neglect, exploitation and violence: children seek refuge on the streets because the situation at home or in their community is unbearable. Poverty is one of the biggest drivers (some children are almost required to fend for themselves by begging, or even worse, prostitution, as there are no other alternatives for them). Some anonymous quotes from street children assessed in the Cape Town CBD speak best for themselves:

“He said I must turn around and take off my pants for R5”

“I hate it always when my daddy beat up my mommy”

“Don’t be scared…you can’t be, then you weak”

“Ek moet Tik in die aande om wakker te bly”

“Ja so wat, my ma en my pa drug ook”

“Ek sien te veel wat ekkie moetie”

“…ek kan nie lees en skryf nie”

“They’re not looking for me”

“I can’t take it at home”

“…ek haat skool”

“I’m alone”

These kids let go of their childhood and try to make it on their own, without adult assistance – a tough choice indeed.

On the streets people give – a blanket, R10, food – the child receives a bit of comfort and a dependency is created: suddenly the streets seem better than home. And there are many reasons that keep these children on the streets – including substance abuse, an income (surprisingly as much as R1000 a day in some cases), fear of going back home to a bad environment, or parents also living on the streets.

Fundamentals of working with children

  • Don’t give to children on the streets – it keeps them there and hinders the prospects of intervention and support in the long run.
  • Never chase a street child away, instead try and get as much information from the child as possible and pass it to the MID Social Worker, the MID Patrollers or the Department of Social Development so that intervention can be arranged.
  • Keep these contact details handy:
    MID Social Worker –
    MID Public Safety – 060 850 6260
    Social Development – Adults: 0800 872 201 – Children: 0800 220 250
  • To save the child from the street often also requires saving his or her family as well – because the child needs this support structure. This is why intervention by professionals is so important.
  • All organisations working with children should have an application form to get sufficient details about the child. If there are concerns for the child (e.g. a child not in school during school hours) this will enable the organization to refer them to the MID social worker for support and intervention from DSD.
  • A child (no matter how streetwise) is still a vulnerable child in need of care and protection.
  • All organizations working with children should also have volunteers sign a form confirming whether or not they have been found guilty of a sexual offence against a child or any other criminal offences. In the event that a volunteer ticks “no” and it is later found that this person lied about having been found guilty of a sexual offence against a child, then legal action may be taken and the person could receive a sentence of up to 5 years in prison.
  • Only a SAPS officer or DSD social worker may transport a street child.

Social Workers, Andrea Castle and Theodore Hendricks

Advocate Deon Ruiters

The MID also expresses gratitude to the Department of Social Development and Advocate Deon Ruiters for their willingness to empower those in attendance by presenting and sharing their expertise and knowledge.

About MID:

The Muizenberg Improvement District [MID] is a geographic area where property owners have contracted to pay a levy to facilitate a joint effort by the City of Cape Town and the local community to ensure more effective management of public areas and to promote business confidence.The MID supplements normal municipal services provided by the City, using its funds to deal with public safety, enhance the environment and address social issues like vagrancy and finding workable solutions for the homeless. The Muizenberg Improvement District is a legal entity established under the City’s Special Rating Areas by-law and also governed by the South African Companies Act 2008.