South Africa should have been alcohol safer for Thimna 13 from Khayelitsha and her name must not disappear from headlines

Thimna Kuze,13 deserved more, she deserved an #AlcoholSaferSA.

The teenager was given alcohol and then reportedly raped and murdered.

The Grade 7 pupil at Lantana Primary School was killed while at a sleepover at her friend’s home in Khayelitsha at the end of last month. According to media reports the uncle of one of her friends gave his 3 nieces and Thimna alcohol. One of the girls woke up in the middle of the night and all 4 had, had their underwear removed. They tried to wake Thimna but she could not be woken. She had a bloodied lip and was bleeding from her genitals and nose.

Her family and community were shaken by her death. The name Thimna Kuze will now be added to a growing list of children in South Africa who have died of unnatural causes while consuming alcohol (and in her case given to her by an adult).

Alcohol harm continues to claim the lives of South African Children and the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance in South Africa has repeatedly called on government to act and address the issue.

Aadielah Maker Diedricks from SAAPA SA said: “Serving or giving minors alcohol is a harmful and potentially fatal practice. Adults who do this are not acting in children’s best interest and must be reported. We as parents also need to talk to our children about the dangers of alcohol consumption as a minor it is harmful and not glamourous. Youth also need to think about how they will respond to peers pressuring them to consume alcohol or being offered alcohol.”

South Africa needs swift and urgent action to change the situation in our communities. In June last year we saw the Enyobeni tragedy resulting in the deaths of 21 children under the age of 18 in a tavern. Following this incident SAAPA SA implored the president to act urgently to avoid a repeat of such a tragedy and on Christmas day last year 2 more children died in a tavern in Hofmeyr.

The Liquor Amendment Bill of 2017 must be passed urgently. The clauses in the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill proposing that alcohol can be sold at school functions must be scrapped and the enforcement of existing laws must be bolstered if we are to reduce alcohol harm and its impact.

International evidence shows that alcohol advertising influences the drinking behaviour of young people, leading to and supporting heavy episodic and binge drinking. The World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2018 reported that whilst only 31% of South Africans drink, two thirds of those who drink, drink heavily. And that 74% of young men and 38% of young women between the ages of 15-19 years old who drink, drink heavily. 

Legislative measures to reduce availability, restrict advertising and increase the price must be combined with community mobilisation to promote a social environment that shift the drinking choice in South Africa. Liquor authorities and SAPS must act to stop trading practises that harms children.

Shaheda Omar clinical Director at the Teddy Bear Foundation said: “Sexual predators repeatedly use alcohol to violate powerless children. There is no question legislation must be tightened to protect our children from Alcohol harm.”

SAAPA SA in January held a live demonstration at the State of the Nation Address asking President Cyril Ramaphosa to immediately stop the sale of alcohol to minors. We have also asked government to bolster law enforcement to protect children from alcohol harm.

We need Justice for Thimna.  The alcohol trading environment and drinking culture in our communities are too conducive for these kinds of incidents to take place. South Africa needs to work to change that.

According to the latest media reports no arrests have been made and nobody has been charged for Thimna’s murder and the sexual violation of her friends. We call on SAPS Khayelitsha to act to prevent this kind of incidents and to keep children safe. We also call on the media to keep reporting on this case.

For more information or interview requests, please contact:

Terri-Liza Fortein, Communications, SAAPA SA or 079 9765 489 or SAAPA SA