Cape Town – Fears of human trafficking at institutions of higher learning have escalated following a communiqué to Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) students warning them to be on high alert regarding possible sex traffickers at its District Six campus.
This follows Stellenbosch University students sounding the alarm last week about an alleged human trafficking ring that may be operating around campus.
Students warned on the matiemedia.org website that a religious group who introduce themselves as members of a worldwide church had tried to recruit “prospective worshippers”, with incoming student representative council (SRC) member Lwazi Phaks confirming to sister paper the Weekend Argus that they had heard of the group from fearful female students.
CPUT students have now been urged to be vigilant after an alleged attempted abduction of a student last weekend.
SRC president Sipho Mokoena said: “A student had just walked out of District Six campus on Saturday, approaching the traffic lights, when a black vehicle stopped a few metres away from her. Then, suddenly, a man came out of
the car running and looking straight at her.
“She listened to her instincts and ran for her life because she didn’t see anyone else around. After running for some time she looked back and saw the man run back to the vehicle and it sped off.
“Everything must have happened too fast because she doesn’t recall the model of the vehicle. She ran to the nearest campus.”
Mokoena said the SRC was busy with awareness posters that were going to be shared at the District Six and Mowbray campuses where the concerns were raised and would be sharing some safety tips for students on social media.
In a communication sent on Friday, CPUT human resources management head Dr Liiza Gie said: “Good day colleagues, student leaders and tutors. Please be on high alert regarding human/sex traffickers on D6 campus.
"Please may you distribute to all our HR students to be aware and report these people. I have informed the dean, security and other HODs.”
CPUT spokesperson Lauren Kansley would not comment on the issuing of the alert to students.
On whether the institution was aware of the alleged attempted abduction, Kansely would also not comment, except to say that the D6 campus was in the city centre and students were always encouraged to be on alert when moving around off campus.
Stellenbosch University spokesperson Martin Viljoen said there have been no complaints lodged at the university structures of abductions, nor have there been reports of sex trafficking.
“The university is aware of articles in student media and social media posts doing the rounds of suspected sex trafficking associated with a religious grouping.
"The articles and social media posts could have created the impression that it was the university that had placed students on ‘high alert’ and warned students against this particular group. This is not the case.”
UWC spokesperson Gasant Abarder said the institution had no reports of sex traffickers operating near to its campuses.
“Campus Protection Services (CPS) operates on the entire campus. CPS is responsible for the safety and security of the entire campus community.
"CPS is a community-oriented and trust-based campus safety and security department responsible for providing a safe secure living, learning environment at UWC.”
UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola did not respond to questions by deadline.
Police spokesperson Novela Potelwa said detectives had been hard at work pursuing several leads following UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana’s disappearance.
This comes as a 42-year-old man arrested on Friday in connection with her disappearance is expected to appear in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court today.
Mrwetyana, 19, a first-year student, has been missing since August 24. She was last seen in Claremont.
“In the early hours of Friday morning, the team, supported by the Western Cape Flying Squad, arrested a 42-year-old suspect in Claremont.
“An extensive investigation is currently under way to determine the whereabouts of the missing person. All avenues are being looked into, including the place where she was last seen,” said Potelwa.
“We are confident the interviewing of the man will eventually lead to the finalisation of the investigation, thereby bringing an end to the days of uncertainty for her family, friends and all others concerned.
“Meanwhile, DNA tests and an autopsy are expected to be performed soon on an unidentified body (discovered in Lingelethu West, Khayelitsha, on Monday) in an effort to determine the identity and cause of death,” said Potelwa.
Last week, three private investigators joined the intensified search for Mrwetyana, among them Noel Pratten, who was involved with the search and discovery of slain Meghan Cremer.
Moholola had said the institution was aware of the strides made by police but said they would continue their search for Mrwetyana in hopes of finding her.
Mrwetyana was last seen wearing brown corduroy baggy pants and had a black handbag with her. She is of average build, 1.7m tall with black hair and has a birthmark on her neck.
Anyone with information on her whereabouts can anonymously contact CPS at 080 650 2222, SAPS at 021 657 2250, or alternatively Crime Stop 086 001 0111, or SMS Crime Line at 32211.