The Organisation, a recently formed group which searches for missing children, rescued five girls from a “lolly lounge” in Eldorado Park last week.
The youngest of the five was 12-year-old Layla*.
She said she had been introduced to the lolly lounges by a friend in February. The 16-year-old friend is still missing.
“She told me these are the places where she hangs out,” said Layla. She believed her 16-year-old friend frequented the lounges often.
“It was so dirty – weed and drug packets everywhere. You could just see that the place doesn’t get cleaned,” she said.
Layla said the couches were full of dust and when someone shifted or sat down, a cloud of smoke and dust would fill the air. She said the bedroom had a single bed in it, with just a base mattress.
“Some of the people looked tired, their eyes red, some couldn’t sit still and wanted to keep talking to you,” she said.
“The people there look ugly, ugly, ugly,” she said.
Layla was referring to the “old” men that were sitting in the lounge, smoking the drugs.
“The smoke was so much. I felt like I was going to die because I couldn’t breathe any more,” she said.
Layla has a small body. She looks as if she could be 10 years old. Her 16-year-old friend from Westbury would tell Layla that the people who hung out in these lounges were cool and they did things for her.
One public holiday last month, the friends went to a park in Hillbrow. “(My 16-year-old friend) gave me our taxi fare and told me to wait at the park. She went somewhere for a very long time and when she came back, her eyes were big and red and she kept laughing,” said Layla.
She said she and her Eldorado Park friend did not go to school during the first week of this month. Instead, they went to Greymont Park, Clearwater Mall and Westgate Shopping Centre, asking people for money.
“The last time I saw her was on Monday, May 7, when I was on my way to school,” she said.
Layla said she had smoked dagga only once in February. Two weeks ago, however, she was rushed to hospital and found with drugs in her system.
Layla ran away from home on Monday and attempted to run away again on Tuesday. When asked where she would run away to, she said she would go to her sister’s house in Noordgesig.
“I wouldn’t go further than my sister,” she said.
She said her cousin still hung out at the lounges.
Even though Layla was wearing her school uniform, she hadn’t been to school in the past week.
It is believed she ran off to one of the lounges.
Layla refuses to talk about a particular incident that may have been sexual in nature that happened with a man in one of the lounges.
Tears welled up in her eyes and she shook her head in refusal whenever The Organisation’s Fazil Carrim tried to coax her into talking about it.
On Tuesday night, The Organisation went with Layla in tow to Hillbrow on another raid to try to find her missing 16-year-old friend.
Later that night, Layla was admitted to hospital after overdosing on medication.
The Organisation is seeking help for Leila from social workers who can take her in.
* Name changed to protect her identity.
The Star Africa