The search for a missing 16-year-old Westbury High School pupil has opened up a Pandora’s box of missing children in the coloured townships of Newlands, Claremont, Westbury, Sophiatown, Bosmont, Noordgesig, Riverlea, Eldorado Park and Ennerdale.
The children have been dragged into prostitution and drug abuse by being lured into the houses called lolly lounges because the glass pipe/popper bottle used to smoke substances like crystal meth and tik is shaped like a lollipop.
The houses are used as drug hubs by criminals and gangsters.
Different types of drugs including heroin and mandrax are smoked in these houses and young girls are taken in and put on to drugs only to be used to “trap” men to spend money on drugs through prostitution.
The pupil, Beranice Links, went missing on her way to school on May 7 and her mother, Brandina Oliphant, said she was not worried at first because her daughter often stayed with her older sister in Coronationville when she was not with her in Westbury.
At the time of her disappearance she had been living with her sister, Fiona.
“I went to her school that day and the school children asked me where she was. They said she hadn’t been to school for two weeks,” she said.
Oliphant then went to her daughter’s house in Coronationville, but Beranice was not there.
She went to the Sophiatown police station that afternoon.
“They said they couldn’t do anything and I should return the next morning to open a missing (person’s) file,” said Oliphant.
She returned to the station the next day.
Oliphant then went to a friend for help and told her employer, Lynn Johnson, about her missing daughter. Johnson went with her to the police station again to find out what was happening with the file she had opened.
“We never received a case number and that Friday we found the documents unattended in the charge office,” said Johnson.
They eventually received help from a constable who told them about The Organisation and what they do.
Fazil Carrim knows all too well how lolly lounges operate because he used to frequent them when he was still doing drugs.
The former drug addict formed The Organisation two months ago with concerned Waterval and Sophiatown residents after being approached by people who would tell them about their missing children.
They have since raided lounges in Newlands, Claremont, Westbury, Sophiatown, Bosmont, Noordgesig, Riverlea, Eldorado and Ennerdale.
Four have been closed down.
LeeAnn Dyker said the lounges were often not far from each other.
“They are out in the open, right under our noses,” she said.
They had rescued 12 of the 14 girls who had gone missing.
“These lounges have been around for over 10 years in some areas and the community knows about them, but no one seems to want to do anything about it,” said Dyker.
Carrim said children who went into the lounges did so of their own free will. The problem came when they did not come out of the lounges.
Whenever they raided the lounges, they found some of the girls so far gone they did not want to leave.
“They (lounges) are an initiation process – it’s where they get the girls hooked on drugs and then they have to start working for the drugs by luring men in for money,” said Dyker.
Carrim said the lounges were even more rife in Cape Town, but Gauteng was starting to catch up.
“Our modus operandi is to go in and if we find any children, we take them with us,” he said.
Carrim said they were trying to organise a place of safety for the underage girls they rescued so they were able to counsel them before they were sent back into the care of their parents.
“All the girls are at their homes, but they could easily run away again,” he said.
Girls over 18 were taken to rehab centres and places of safety such as the Walter Sisulu Home and Comeback Missions.
The youngest person rescued was 12 and the oldest was 21.
When they raided the lounges, the girls were found high, rebellious and paranoid.
“Sometimes even we are afraid to enter these lounges, not knowing the type of people we are going to find – if they are armed or what state they are in.
“It’s not an easy job,” said Carrim.
Five girls were found last week and two ran away again.
The longest time it has taken The Organisation to find a missing child was three days.
But Beranice’s case is different. She has been missing for two weeks now.
The Star accompanied The Organisation and a task team from the Sophiatown police station on Friday evening to alleged lounges in Kliptown, Soweto and Eldorado Park, where a tip-off had said Beranice would be.
She was not found.
“Beranice is a quiet child and she wouldn’t just run away.
“I wish I could tell her to come home because this is hurting me.
“I love her,” said Oliphant.
The Star Africa