Pietermaritzburg police have vowed to clean up the city and crack down on illegal abortionists who prey on young women.

This follows a number of cases in which foreigners have been arrested for illegally administering abortion drugs to women who are well over three months pregnant.

Investigating officers met Brigadier Johan Reydens of the Pietermaritzburg police station on Thursday, along with representatives of NGOs, the traditional healers’ council and the media to map out a game plan for stamping out illegal abortions in the city as part of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign.

At a round-table conference, discussions were held on how to begin the battle against illegal abortions.

“Women are bleeding to death as a result of these illegal practitioners. We need to clean up our streets and ensure that all our ducks are in a row when we go after them to secure successful prosecutions,” Reydens said.

The police have also joined forces with local anti-abortion activists, women’s groups and NGOs in projects around the city this month, which include the handing out of flyers and pamphlets to educate people about the plague of illegal abortions in the city.

The police are also in discussions with members of the National Prosecuting Authority and are working with them to bring illegal abortionists to book.

They confirmed that a number of sting operations would be carried out to trap those abortionists who were not registered with the traditional healers’ council and had no medical authority to administer drugs to abort pregnancies.

Cele Khondo, who is the chairman of the Umgungundlovu traditional healers’ council, said there were at least 4 000 licensed and registered traditional healers in the district, but healers did not associate themselves with abortion.

“These men who do this are killers. Traditional healers do not take lives,” Khondo said.

He added that foreigners who come into the country could not become traditional healers in South Africa.

“We will not accept them,” he said.

Reydens warned young women to be aware that illegal abortionists were dangerous and they were putting their lives in danger by seeking their help.

“This is a grave issue in the city, one that we are taking seriously and have committed ourselves to eliminating,” he said.

In one of the most recent cases last month, Ugandan Jonathan Kinane was granted bail of R700 in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court, to the fury of the community and anti-abortion activists.

It is alleged that Kinane administered a drug to a local student on September 9, which led to the termination of her pregnancy at a facility that was not approved for abortion, in Fraser Lane.

The woman was arrested after she aborted a foetus five months into her pregnancy and buried it in a shallow grave.

She informed the police of Kinane’s alleged role in the termination of her pregnancy and he was arrested at his office in Fraser Lane.

Investigating officer Samantha Kerr, who was present at the meeting on Thursday, said that in the past two years alone, the central police station had dealt with more than 18 cases of concealment of birth, in which aborted foetuses had been dumped on rubbish heaps, in rubbish bins and in pit toilets.

She confirmed that police were also in the process of tracing the owners of pamphlets being circulated in the city, advertising “safe abortions”.

“This cannot be allowed to continue,” she said.

Local social worker Daya Pillay said that teenage pregnancy in Pietermaritzburg was on the increase as a result of an influx of young immigrants from other provinces and countries who came to the city in search of educational institutions.

“These youth are away from the care and guidance of their parents, which in turn exposes them to a lifestyle which involves drinking, partying, and unsafe sex. The results of that are the growing statistics of teenage pregnancy,” Pillay said.

She said that ruthless opportunists had opened illegal abortion businesses to take advantage of young women who were desperate for a solution to a problem which they believed could not be solved by going to a state institution, where they feared being shamed.

“We need to start educating young women that legal and safe assistance is available to them,” she said.