Mogoeng: 'ConCourt wants to find lasting solution to scourge of violence, abuse'

The Constitutional Court heard an appeal by organisation Freedom of Religion South Africa against a high court ruling which effectively declared all forms of physical force by parents on their children unlawful.

A screengrab shows Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng at the Constitutional Court, on 6 March 2018. Picture: SABC Digital News/youtube.com

JOHANNESBURG – The Constitutional Court has heard that South Africa’s violent nature cannot be limited to the results of moderate physical correction at home.

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court heard an appeal by organisation Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) against a High Court ruling which effectively declared all forms of physical force by parents on their children unlawful.

This after a court found a father guilty of assault after he beat his 13-year-old son in a manner that exceeded the bounds of reasonable chastisement.

The justices have raised concerns over the arguments of legal teams against physical punishment and that they may have provided the court with a one-sided scientific assessment on the causes of violence in the country.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng: “A balanced assessment of what is actually plaguing our society rather than be subjected to one side only. That way, you’re able to come up with something that will truly benefit society.”

Mogoeng says the court wants to find a lasting solution to the scourge.

“I’m looking for something that will help South Africa steer away from abuse, violence, lawlessness and ill-discipline.”

Judgment has been reserved.

PARENTS MUST BE PROTECTED

Freedom of Religion South Africa says parents should be given the right to discipline their children without the interference of the state.

Now, FOR SA says it’s not asking the apex court to rule on spanking or corporal punishment but on the rights of parents to use moderate physical correction to discipline their children.

Advocate R Willis said: “We say that a reasonable amount of chastisement is mischaracterised when it is described as corporal punishment. We submit that reasonable and moderate chastisement is exactly that.”

The state argues that the use of any form of physical force to discipline a child infringes on their rights to dignity as well as protection against abuse.

The Departments of Justice and Social Development have argued that children are a vulnerable group that needs unlimited protection.

The state's advocate Ngwako Maenetje said given South Africa’s history of violence against women and children, stronger laws are required to protect the most vulnerable in society.

“These rights must be construed in a manner that promotes the values that underlie an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.”

Maenetje said positive parenting can secure good behaviour without using physical force.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)