Child Protection Week cold comfort for some families
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Cape Town – The family of 12-year-old Lunamandla Sithonga from Site B in Khayelitsha, who has been missing since July 9 last year, is one of many who are suffering during National Child Protection Week.
To make matters worse for the family, the driver who claimed he dropped her off at Eastview Primary School last year, and was also the last person to have seen her, has died, further dashing the hopes of her relatives for her safe return.
National Child Protection Week is commemorated in the country annually to raise awareness of the rights of children.
Sithonga family spokesperson and Lunamandla’s aunt, Noloyiso, said the family was anxious for news of their much-loved daughter.
“Lunamandla has been missing since last year and the police have not given us any update regarding her whereabouts, or updates on the case.
“The driver of the transport was the main suspect and he knows what happened to her, but since he has died I don’t think we’ll ever know what happened to her.
“We are saddened as a family that she has not been found. The taxi driver told police he dropped her at school, and when he went to fetch her again later that day she was nowhere to be found.
’’We want the police to speed up their investigations so we can find closure,” she said.
Bianca van Aswegen, the national co-ordinator of Missing Children South Africa, said parents and communities had the responsibility to keep children safe and educate them on safety.
“We as an organisation never give up on any of our cases. We are still assisting with Lunamandla’s case and are in contact with the SAPS regularly.
’’Her case is still being investigated and all possible information is being followed up on. It is currently Child Protection Week and no family should be going through such trauma of a child who is missing,” she said
Van Aswegen added that there is no waiting period to report a person or child as missing.
Children’s Institute at UCT’s Professor Shanaaz Mathews said: “With us once again raising awareness and calling for an end to the cycle of child abuse during Child Protection Week, it is important that we also highlight that children are most vulnerable to abuse and sexual exploitation from someone known to them.”
Mathews said caregivers had to be vigilant about who was around children.
“This requires that our child protection system is functional to respond to children’s protection needs immediately.
’’When a child goes missing we need an immediate response – the longer we wait the less likely for a child to be found, or found alive.
’’We require the community to be responsive and not protect perpetrators, and for the criminal justice system to prove the harshest sentences possible,” she said.
Anyone with any information can contact Missing Children South Africa at 072 6477 464.