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Sun
13
Feb '11

Blog 20 – Buddy and Me – Project 3 (6th – 9th February 2011)

Posted by Julia

Categories: Buddy and Me

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The PROPOSAL TO THE PRESIDENT for your perusal. 

To watch Buddy and Me in real time click here, select South Africa under “Global Fleet Logins:” in the left hand panel, enter cellphone number 0822549129 and password Buddy.

To make a donation to or information on any of the organisations involved in assisting victims of child rape and abuse, please click on one of the following links:

Beares
Lubners
Bobbi Bear Foundation (KwaZulu-Natal)
The Teddy Bear Clinic (Gauteng)
The TygerBear Foundation (Western Cape)
GRIP (Mpumalanga)
StepThru (Gauteng)

So on Sunday morning (6th Feb), after thanking Paul Fielder – the General Manager, and Marietjie Fielder – the Reservations Manager, of the Protea Quays Knysna Hotel for their incredibly generous support to the ‘Buddy and Me’ project, as well as for the friendship and hospitality which was bestowed upon me and Buddy (He actually got a snug covered parking to see out the rainy nights), ‘Buddy and Me’ headed for Buffelsbaai or as it is known in English, Buffalo Bay, which is about 15 kilometres south of Knysna.

As it was Sunday and because I intended taking the day off on Monday to catch up with my washing and some computer work, I decided to spend the two nights camping, and hopefully get in a bit of fishing, or rather ‘angling’, these two sports being as different as rugby is to cricket. 

On arriving at the lovely ‘Buffelsbaai Caravan and Camping Resort’ reception office, which by the way was voted South Africa’s number one Resort in 2004, the manager of the park George Zondagh offered me a camping site in-spite of the fact that the park was fully booked for the weekend as well as pretty full for the remainder of the week as well, but he managed to find me a spot where my tent could fit in and so I was set for the next two nights.

                    

A lovely spot, only 15 – 20 metres from the sea and from my tent I could watch the sea and dream of that humungous sea monster swimming around out there waiting to pounce on my hook, dream on Mr. Heath

 

I placed my life in peril in order to get this photo for you climbing to the top of a ‘mountain’ (actually a small rocky hill) but it was worth the ‘risk’ because it provides a pretty good picture of the Resort. From where I was perched on top of the ‘mountain’ I managed to get a ‘bird’s eye view’ of the park. If you click twice on the picture it enlarges and if you look carefully you can see Buddy and my tent right out in the distance just to the right of the furthest ablution block.

The park was packed and it took me over two hours to set up camp, having to chat to a number of people who on walking past, and being attracted of course by Buddy’s incredible charm and good looks, stopped to chat to me about the project. I was amazed to learn that a few of the people actually knew of the ‘Buddy and Me’ project and had in fact been on the website, having heard about it from family and friends, so it seems the word is definitely getting around.

So after spending a glorious Sunday afternoon and Monday in sunny and hot weather trying to catch the elusive fish, which by the way remains elusive, Tuesday morning dawned a very misty, cold and wet morning with a slight drizzle to add to my woes because it would mean having to pack up a wet tent, and this is not good practise.

With this in mind, George suggested that I pack up everything else, leave the tent up, because according to the local ‘experts’ the rain/drizzle would very soon abate and the sun would come out and the tent would dry in the ‘blazing sunshine and heat’, undertake my visit to George (The town, which is about 65 kilometres from ‘Buffelsbaai’) and return later to collect the trailer and tent.  Wow what a plan! So off I went to George (The town/city whatever it is). 

I paid my courtesy visit to the Beares store where I met up with the store manager Dirk Swanepoel, who is a really nice guy and his friendly staff and after a chat with everyone headed out to meet up with Jimmy Setagane at the Thuthuzela Care Centre which is based in the Provincial Hospital close by.

 

Meet Dirk Swanepoel – extreme right of the picture, I won’t say “the bald guy” – and his friendly staff of Beares George.

My visit to the Thuthuzela Care Centre proved to be both a pleasure as well as a disappointment. The pleasure aspect of it was meeting an incredibly nice guy who is dedicated to the establishment and success of the Thuthuzela Care Centre initiative, Jimmy Setagane, but the disappointment was the fact that after having been established for one year, this Thuthuzela Care Centre is once again, in my humble opinion, a complete waist of time and money, as it currently is, and I believe the authorities have completely defeated the object of the concept of establishing, as is stated in the Thuthuzela Care Centre brochures, a ‘One-Stop’ support facilities for victims of child rape as well as victims of domestic violence.

The Thuthuzela Care Centre brochure, which by the way is a very impressive one, which states: “The Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCC’s) have been established as multi-disciplinary care centres to deal with the high levels of sexual violence against women and children, especially rape. The centres provide professional medical care, counselling, access to dedicated investigators and prosecutors, all under one roof”.

 

This is the Thuthuzela Care Centre’s very nice, fancy, and obviously expensive brochure, which outlines the services which the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) who is the brain child behind this truly fantastic initiative and concept, process’s to provide essential services to victims of child rape and domestic violence, “All under one roof” – as in a ‘one-stop’ facility. To-date I have visited most of them, a few new ones having been ‘established’ recently which I have not been able to visit, but so-far I have not found a single one which has the services listed in the brochure, “all under one roof”.

As in the case of all the Thuthuzela Care Centres I have visited, it was explained to me that the services provided by the Thuthuzela Care Centres is marketed to the police stations and clinics in the area, where members of the SAPS and staff of the outer lying district clinics are told to refer any reporting of a child rape or act of domestic violence case to them (The Thuthuzela Care Centre). The marketing of the Thuthuzela Care Centres is not directed at the public and so I believe they are defeating the object of the centres by forcing mothers to first go to the police station where a docket is opened, and where, in the majority of cases, because of the inadequacy’s of the FCS ‘cluster system’, the SAPS member is totally inexperienced in dealing with child rape cases, resulting in the mother and child still being exposed to the humiliation and degrading ‘system’ of the police station and then to cap it all, being transported to the Thuthuzela Care Centre by means of a police vehicle, which in many instances is in the back of a police van.  

Unfortunately, as I said, my visit to the Thuthuzela Care Centre which is based in the George Provincial Hospital was a big disappointment in the form that firstly when Dirk Swanepoel phoned the unit to confirm my appointment with Jimmy, nobody answered the phone. Then when he phoned the hospital switchboard, the lady answering had never so much as heard of the Thuthuzela Care Centre. On arriving at the hospital, I could not find a single sign indicating where the Thuthuzela Care Centre was! After asking directions from three hospital staff members, I eventually found someone who showed me the way. On arriving at the centre there was nobody there.

 I returned to the front office and asked where I could find Jimmy Sitagane, and after shakes of heads and “I don’t know who that is” one lady said “Aah yes Jimmy, his office is at the back by the ICU” and proceeded to show me the way. So eventually after almost 20 minutes of wondering around the hospital and asking questions of people who had no idea what the Thuthuzela Care Centre is, never mind where they are, I found Jimmy. God help any mother who arrives at a hospital in which a Thuthuzela Care Centre has been ‘established’ hoping to get fast, professional support for her small child who has been raped, “All under one roof’.

As I said previously, Jimmy turned out to be a really great guy who is committed to the establishment and success of the Thuthuzela Care Centre concept and he fully agreed with my sentiments on where the establishment of the centres is going wrong and agrees that if they were established in the manner I believe they should be, it would be a major step in the right direction of stopping the rape and sexual abuse of children in South Africa.

The most interesting bit of information Jimmy shared with me, and which I was extremely happy to hear, is the fact that it is mandatory for all clinics in the area covered by the Thuthuzela Care Centre, as well as the area covered by the George SAPS FCS unit, to report all abortions carried out by them. This is in light of the section of the children’s Act which states that: “Any child over the age of 12-years of age can undergo an abortion without her parents consent.

The problems which this section of the Act has created, is the fact that children, especially in the 12 – 15 years of age category who have been having ‘consensual’ sex with boyfriends much older than themselves and includes ‘men’ in their early and late 20’s and older, in-spite of the fact that sex with a girl in this age group is by law rape, under the statutory rape section of the Act, by undergoing abortions without their parents consent or knowledge of the pregnancy, are allowing these ‘men’ to escape the law. Jimmy confirmed that in ‘their’ area, these ‘men’ do not escape the ‘long arm of the law’ and all cases in which a child under the age of 16 requests an abortion, ‘men’ responsible for the pregnancy are pursued to the fullest extent of the law. This was good news to me; I just wish this practise was carried out by FCS and Thuthuzela Care Centres throughout the country.

From my meeting with Jimmy, I headed back to Buffelsbaai, in the rain, to pack up my tent, load it, wet, because the local ‘experts’ prediction of sunny hot weather did not materialise, into the trailer and return to George. Fortunately I was hosted incredible accommodation in the exquisite ‘King George Protea Hotel’ and so the wet tent did not affect me, for that night, but I can just imagine what it’s going to smell like when I have to take it out in a few days time??

The entrance to the lovely ‘King George Protea Hotel’

The General Manager Deleur Stander and, I think, Front Office Manager, Caryn-Lee Behr

After a fantastic nights rest and after thanking Deleur and Caryn-Lee for their generous support to the ‘Buddy and Me’ project, I headed for the police station where I got to meet another dedicated police officer, one of only a handful I have met on this project. Captain October is as I said, a dedicated police officer who is one of very few I have met in the last five years who is totally committed to the fight against the raping and sexual abuse of children as well as the fight against domestic violence.

What Captain October told me, with regard to how they as an FCS unit operates, totally blew my socks off and if it is true, and I certainly have no reason to believe that its not, if the rest of the SAPS FCS units in South Africa operated on the same basis we would be seeing a major improvement in the fight against child rape and the sexual abuse of children.

For one thing, he confirmed what Jimmy had told me yesterday at the Thuthuzela Care Centre, and that is that in George they have a “no nonsense, zero tolerance attitude towards children in the 12 – 16 years of age, age group who go for abortions ‘without their parents consent or knowledge’, in other words who have been raped, irrespective of the fact that it was ‘consensual’, and they ensure that individual who got this child pregnant  faces the ‘long arm of the law’.

Unfortunately this is another aspect of my visit to George where I suffered ‘disappointment, because once again all the hard work and dedication of the FCS unit has been for naught in that the ‘long arm of the law’ is letting the system down, because on conviction the rapists are all being given trivial fines and suspended sentences.

The good news was that he confirmed, and gave me his word, that no child rape victim is transported to the hospital (Thuthuzela Care Centre) in a ‘marked’ police vehicle, and that only ‘unmarked’ SAPS vehicles are used for this purpose.

He also confirmed that the mother of a child rape victim is kept informed of the progress of the investigation by means of sms bundles. My only problem with this is “what if the mother does not have the financial resources to own a cell phone?”

When I heard how large the area is which the George SAPS FCS unit has to cover, and the size of the staff they have to do this difficult task with, not to mention the fact that they do not have anywhere near sufficient motor vehicles to do the work with, I could not help thinking about the comments I wrote in blogs 1 and 2 of this project 3 regarding the 100’s of millions of Rands being spent to equip our metro traffic police with staff and fancy motor vehicles, it’s called “priorities” or rather, where is the “income” been generated from as far as government is concerned. (It’s worth reading those blogs)

The area the George SAPS FCS unit covers includes the police stations of:

  • George
  • Pacaltsdorp
  • Conville
  • Thembalethu
  • Knysna
  • Plettenberg Bay
  • Kwanonukathula
  • Unimdale

The furthest police station in this area is almost 200 kilometres away from George and the majority of the areas they are forced to travel in are extremely remote areas with gravel roads. And then we wonder why we have a 15 – 18% reporting rate by mothers and a measly 4 – 6% conviction rate, I rest my case.

 

Finally when I left George, I headed for Mossel Bay where I spent some really good quality time with the Beares staff there.

And then finally, exhausted, I headed for the lovely Mossel Bay Protea Hotel where Ronel, the Front Office Manager met me and booked me in for the night, check this out, as I walked in there was a framed sign welcoming me.

 

And then I got to meet the lovely ‘boss lady’ of the hotel, General Manager Karen Bús- on the right of the picture in black slacks and black top, together with her amazingly friendly front office staff.

My room had a spectacular view of the harbour and yacht club as well as the entire Mossel Bay coastline to the left, and I was treated as if I was visiting royalty by all the staff, talk about being spoilt!

There is however one thing I must mention. It wasn’t a problem for me, but I thought maybe Buddy might take exception to it and give me a hard time, but fortunately so far he has accepted the situation graciously and has not made my life difficult, after all it wasn’t my fault!

This is Buddy’s ‘reserved parking’, but look closely at the sign on the wall next to the fish!!

So that once again brings my blog, number 20 to and end, so tomorrow morning, Thursday the 10th ‘Buddy and Me’ will be heading back in-land for Oudtshoorn but will first be paying a visit to some good friends I met in the ‘Eight bells’ area, which is at the foot of the ‘Robinson Pass, on the Mossel Bay side of the Pass. So unitl next I get to write, keep well, stay safe and yep you got it, keep all children safe.

Caring regards from

‘Buddy (The Beach Buggy – my mechanical stead)

and

Me’ (Steve Heath)

Please send your comments and opinions to: steve@buddyandme.co.za

Please note that all comments and opinions on the ‘Buddy and Me’ website are entirely those of Steve Heath and not those of the sponsors to the ‘Buddy and Me’ project.

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