Johannesburg - The town of Fochville in western Gauteng has been shaken by what seems to be an elaborate plot to kidnap and traffic children.
On Saturday, the children, who come from the township of Kokosi in Fochville, were taken by their “coach” to Joburg’s Park Station, while others were left in the township of Khutsong.
According to Anelisa Mzamo*, a parent of one of the 13-year-old boys, the man arrived in Kokosi three months ago under the guise of forming sports teams to keep the children out of trouble.
“He told us he was between jobs, and he would be here for a short while,” Mzamo said.
She added that he was an approachable person, and they had no reason to believe he would want to harm their kids.
The man is said to have entered the teams into existing sports tournaments in the community of Fochville. Last weekend, he took the children on what he told them and their families would be a tournament in the nearby town.
The man is alleged to have split the children into two groups; one was left in Khutsong and the other taken to Joburg.
One of the young boys left in Khutsong said the coach said they would be playing nearby teams. But they just spent hours sitting in the veld.
“The coach left us there and said he would be fetching others. But he never came back.
“There were these older men who saw us sitting there, and they told us the place wasn’t safe and we should go to the police if the coach didn’t come back. It started getting dark, and the place didn’t have electricity, so we went to the police station, where our parents were called,” he said.
Community members believe the man drugged the children the night before they left, because many of them were found disorientated. They believe he spiked the soft drink he gave them at the sleepover before they left.
The group taken to Joburg is said to have been split into two again. One lot of children slept outside a restaurant at Park Station. The other slept at an informal settlement in Germiston with a man believed to be the man’s friend.
According to 13-year-old Keabetswe Mokoena*, the man first tried to first get them to a hotel before he handed them over.
“He kept telling us that he’d find a hotel for us to sleep in. We ended up at one that went for R30 a night.
“When we got there, we realised the place was where people who smoke (drugs) sleep.
“His friend, the one who took us to Germiston, told us we should refuse to sleep in that hotel because when he first got to Joburg, his wife was raped in there,” Mokoena said.
According to the ANC branch chairperson in the area, Uzifanele Mqwathi, they managed to track down the children through a cellphone belonging to one of them.
Mqwathi said the people who had seen and assisted the children in town played a big role in their being found.
Gauteng SAPS’s Lieutenant-Colonel Lungile Dlamini said the police had issued a warrant of arrest for the man. “He is still on the run. He is wanted for the charge of kidnapping, and once he’s arrested, he will appear in court.”
Ward councillor Mzwakhe Dlamini, the local government and the police would be providing support to the children and their families.
* Names changed to protect the identities of the children.