Cape Town - This past month has seen a number of reports of abductions and attempted abductions of children in the Western Cape, which has created immense panic among parents and caregivers.
Human trafficking specialist and former Hawks investigator Marcel van der Watt said although there seemed to be a heightened number of claims, they were by no means something
new to the Western Cape or South Africa.
“Children in South Africa are predisposed to and victims of a variety of crimes and types of criminals, ranging from opportunistic individuals and serial offenders to more organised or unstructured criminal networks.”
He said children went missing and were abducted for several reasons.
“Both qualitative and quantitative data is foundational to a whole understanding of phenomena related to missing persons, child trafficking and other social ills in society and so is the proper collection, collation, analysis and reporting of this data.
“Some cases of abuse, neglect and missing children are not even reported or where communities are faced with police officials who don’t properly record information
“Every incident, whether an actual abduction or an attempt, suspicious behaviour or a third-party action directed at a child, which intuitively does not make sense to any observer, must be recorded. We should accept that if something is not written down or recorded, it never happened.
“If a criminal case is not registered, an enquiry must be opened. I have seen how bits and pieces of seemingly insignificant fragments of information offered by independent parties have become a constellation of indicators from which patterns can be drawn, evidence generated and cases built.”
He said we need to have a “frank discussion” about criminal economies that prey on and benefit from children as “objects and commodities”.
“We need to be more invested in the family structure, our children’s well-being and their safety. Unfortunately, dramatic elements such as force, kidnapping, brutality and monster-like perpetrators dominate our perceptions, while subversive themes such as deceit, fraud, grooming and the use of technology slip through the crevices.”
Police spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana said abductions and attempted abductions must be reported to the police and would be investigated.
Debbie Schafer, MEC for Education, said the safety of learners outside school gates remained beyond their control “but schools need to ensure that there are safety measures in place at dismissal time”.
“Last week, our head of department, Brian Schreuder, issued a communication to schools to remind them to review and update their safety policies, particularly around access control, to ensure that procedures are in place to deal with reported abduction cases.”
Provincial Community Policing Forum board spokesperson Lucinda Evans said more communities should embark on the Walking Bus initiative to provide a further sense of safety for children. Some areas had already implemented the initiative launched by the Department of Community Safety in Wesbank in 2016.
The aim was to create a safe passage for children to and from school. Evans said parents should be aware of which routes their children took to and from school.
“There are a number of Grade R to Grade 4 pupils who walk by them- selves for long distances, which makes them vulnerable.”