Originally published in SA News
Residents of Diepsloot, Johannesburg, on Monday gathered for a prayer service at the Methodist Church in Extension 10 to seek divine intervention in the wake of horrific violent acts committed against children in the area.
The discovery of a seven-month-old baby’s mutilated body in a shack on Sunday and the recent murder of two cousins, Yonelisa and Zandile Mali, prompted Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau to convene the prayer day.
It was preceded by a march led by the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, and Tau. They were joined by religious leaders, members of the Johannesburg Metro Police, the community and government officials.
Those gathered at the Methodist Church remembered the children whose young lives were brutally ended. Ministers from different religious denominations took turns praying for an end to the high levels of crime, child abuse, domestic violence and satanism in schools.
Xingwana said the prayer was not only for Diepsloot, as its effects would be felt throughout Gauteng province and South Africa as a whole. She said the country needed to be exorcised of social ills such as drugs, rape and bullying in schools.
“Nobody has a right to violate those innocent children. Nobody has a right to take those children’s lives. They are a gift from God,” said Xingwana.
She challenged the community to take a moment and reflect on ways and strategies to stop these atrocities.
“We need to strengthen the morals and values of ubuntu in our society to win this battle. We need to further strengthen our engagement and support for parents and families in our communities to get to the root causes of the anger and violence in our homes, which eventually manifests in the killing of the most vulnerable in our society – the women and children.”
She further emphasised responsible parenting in families, saying parents could not expect strangers to take care of their children if they could not do it themselves.
“It starts with me as a mother… who has a responsibility to nurture and protect [my child]. Some of the reports we receive are that some mothers leave babies alone at home and go drinking. [This is] highly unacceptable and irresponsible. We have a responsibility as parents to lead by example.”
She assured the families that government would not rest until all the criminals were behind bars. She called on the courts to hand out maximum sentences befitting the crime.
Tau stressed the need to work with the church to confront deep-seated problems confronting the community.
“… Pray for us, accept our limitations as political leaders and the community… In times of need, we can only return to you [the church],” Tau said.
He challenged the community to make a positive change in their lives.
“… We must take the responsibility in ensuring we confront the scourge of crime by looking for solutions within ourselves.
“These crimes are a reflection on us as a community… As men, we can say, ‘you can’t do that in our name’,” said Tau.
Pastor Ray McCauley of the Rhema Bible Church said parents must take charge of matters in their communities and become part of the solution.
“Unemployed young people must help the community and be part of street patrolling. We are going to teach our children not to go with somebody that gives them sweets… We are with you in what you are going through.”
He also challenged the church to go out and change the people and community of Diepsloot. “Pray until the scourge is broken.”