Johannesburg - Wilson Magude was two months and three weeks old when a woman abducted him from his mother’s vendor salon in First Avenue, Alexandra.
Nilza Magude was braiding hair and didn’t see the small, quiet bundle being lifted from his pram beside her where he had been sleeping beside his twin brother.
Magude was taken on November 14 this year and the Magude family, who include Wilson’s twin and two other siblings, do not want to go back to their home town in Mozambique for Christmas without their fourth child. Magude says she prays every day that Wilson will be found.
According to the SAPS’s missing persons bureau, a child disappears every six hours. The office says the number increases over the festive season in coastal areas, which is why satellite stations are set up and awareness is ramped up around this time.
The South African Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (Sacmec) is an NGO that helps to find missing children. It has a recovery success rate of 84 percent.
It is also gearing up for the holiday season, a time when children are more susceptible to getting lost or being abducted.
Between 570 and 580 cases a year are reported to Sacmec, but this number rises rises every year, in part as a result of increasing awareness of the service.
This year, in Gauteng, 164 children have been reported missing, the highest in the country compared with 70 in the Western Cape.
A person is considered to be a child if he or she is younger than 18.
Missing children may be run-aways or may have been abducted, including by a parent, or fallen prey to human traffickers.
In most cases, 37 percent, children disappear because they have become lost.
Nic Panagio, the chairman of Sacmec, says South Africa is a key child trafficking centre.
“(It) is a destination, source and transit country, which makes the first 24 hours the most crucial period.”
Part of the advocacy mandate of Sacmec is to dispel the myth that parents need to wait 24 hours before they may report a child missing.
Panagio says this is not true. The sooner the SAPS and Sacmec can publish a picture of the child, the better the chances of finding it.
“Our organisation is a bridge between SAPS and the victim’s family. We have a team of four in every province and volunteers who work closely with the police.”
According to the police, if you cannot find a child, this should be reported to the nearest police station. “The only thing needed is basic information on the missing person and, preferably, the most recent photograph of the person.”
At the police station’s client service centre, an SAPS 55(A) form must be completed and the reporter will be required to sign an indemnity to safeguard the SAPS from “hoax” reports.
Sacmec offers a free service and may be contacted at: 072 647 7464, or 021 950 1546, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call SAPS at: 08600 10111
Gauteng missing persons bureau: 011 670 6316