In most countries there are laws which say children cannot go to jail. In South Africa, the Child Care Act says that children under eighteen years cannot go to jail.
But since the beginning of the State of Emergency, no-one can say how many children have been detained in our country. We only know that at the moment there are more than 1 000 children in detention.
People all over the world are shocked at the way the government here treats children. Many people wrote letters. Some people wrote to PW Botha. Other people wrote to the children themselves – or to their families.
These people all sent copies of their letters to the Free the Children Alliance. Here are some of the letters.
Now you can see what people from other countries think about the suffering of children in South Africa.
To the people of South Africa I am writing to tell you how I worry about the children in jail in South Africa. I am the mother of three sons aged ten, seventeen and eighteen. The thought of my sons suffering like the children in South Africa fills me with horror. My ten year old boy has just fallen asleep with his head on my knee. He is tired after playing games all day. I am sure he is dreaming sweet dreams now – dreams of Superman, football, Father Christmas. I feel that children in South Africa had their childhood stolen – and they will never get it back. And they will never again see adults as people who will protect them. All adults have a duty to protect people who are weaker – like children are. Adults who hurt children and put them in prison are not doing their duty as human beings. As a mother, I can only imagine the pain which mothers in South Africa are feeling. And I can only imagine the fear of the children in jail. Martin Luther King said he had a dream of black and white people living together in peace. This must be the dream of every caring person in the world. The present nightmare in South Africa must end. Mrs J.R. Jones ENGLAND
To the children of South Africa We are children in Tasmania, Australia. We are on a camp-out. We spoke about South Africa and we prayed for you. We prayed that you are not being hurt and you will soon be free. We are very lucky that we can go to camp-outs. We are sorry that you cannot go to camp-outs too. from Melissa, Leah and Jane.
My name is Anna. I am a little girl. I am sad that you are in jail.
My name is Thomas and I hope you will soon be back with your family. From some children who love Jesus in Australia
To the parents of the children in prison We are children of a school in Holland. The children at our school made cards for the children who are in prison. We want to ask you, will you send them these cards? It will be easier for you. We send you our best wishes from all the children of the primary school, De Korf
To the South African Government I, Stella Rodriguez, am a student of Aquinas High School. I am writing because I want you to free all the children in your prisons. I feel you are very wrong to keep these children in prison. They are so young and they know nothing of life. I think you must think about their parents. You must think about your own children. How would you feel if someone took your children away? You would also feel sad and worried. So, please let the children out. Stella Rodriguez UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
To the South African government Nous, enfants de I’ecole Saint Joseph, vous prions de liberez des enfants qui soufrent en prison injustement. We, the children of the Saint Joseph school, say that you are taking the freedom of the children. The children are suffering unjustly in prison.
Dear Brothers and Sisters My warm greeting to you. You are not forgotten by the people of my country. I hope when you read this letter more children will be out of jail. But I fear that other children will take their places in the prisons. Do not give up hope. Your freedom will come. You are getting closer and closer each day. I read and watch the news that comes from your country. But I believe that we do not get the truth. Your struggle is right and just, so it will succeed. Jonathan Paddock ENGLAND