Warrenton -

The entire community of Warrenton has joined forces with the police and the family of a missing four-year-old autistic boy as the frantic search for the child, who disappeared from his grandmother’s house in Ikhutseng on Saturday night, continued on Wednesday.

The police on horseback (the mounted unit) and on motorbikes on Wednesday, accompanied by the boy’s family, combed through the open veld that surrounds the town.

The search was launched shortly after the boy, Nhlanhla Mnguni, disappeared and by Wednesday, local schools, shops and clinics had put up pictures of the child on their walls.

While various police units and the boy’s family were out searching in the veld, community members continued to also search for the boy within the township.

“We have even told the children during school assembly to tell their parents about any information they might have in relation to the missing boy,” one of the teachers at a local school said.

Mnguni is autistic and according to his father, Thulani Sibiya, cannot speak and this is making his rescue more difficult.

“He is not likely to scream for help even if he needs to,” Sibiya said.

He also said that his son loved music and this was one of the things he responded well to.

“One of the places we searched after he disappeared was a local tavern, which is located not far from the house, because he loves music. I am convinced that he is not likely to be sitting still or hiding somewhere inside a quiet house,” Sibiya said.

He added that his child’s disappearance had left the family devastated.

“However, we remain hopeful that we will soon find him and that he is well wherever he is.

“I know he is safe wherever he is. He will be found. We have called on God to intervene. I believe that although this is very stressful, there is a deeper purpose,” Sibiya said.

“I must learn something out of this situation. Nothing happens in my life without God approving it.”

He said that he was worried about his son’s mother, Nokuthula Mnguni.

The boy’s mother has been frantically searching in the veld for her son since the weekend.

“I worry a lot about her because she is not even eating. I told her to stay home and rest but she says that she cannot do this. Instead she prefers to go out and look for our son,” Sibiya said.

Explaining how his son disappeared, Sibiya said that they noticed that the boy was missing shortly after they loaded their bags inside their vehicle because they were preparing to travel back to their home in Bloemfontein.

Sibiya, together with the boy and Nokuthula, had come to Ikhutseng on Saturday morning to participate in his older sister’s lobola negotiations.

“The car was parked there (pointing to the driveway) and I just finished putting the bags inside it. Nhlanhla (the son) and I came back into the house and he sat next to the couch, eating cheese curls chips. The security door (on the veranda) was closed but not locked,” Sibiya said.

“I went to talk to my dad in the bedroom and after three minutes I came out and said to Nokuthula we could leave. She said I must just fetch the child. We then realised that he was missing and the back door was opened,” Sibiya said.

He said everyone in the house immediately started looking for the child but could not find him.

“We all scattered all over the township to look for him. I drove down the road and when I got to the taxi rank, I met two guys who said that they saw the child running past the rank. I ran further down the road on the direction they gave me but I could not find him. Since he loves music, I asked the people at the tavern if they had not seen him but they had not,” Sibiya said.

He appealed to members of the community to report any information, no matter how little it might be, to the police or the family.

“I would also like to thank everyone who has been part of this search. I truly appreciate the efforts of each and every one of them in ensuring that we find our son,” Sibiya said.

“People might be afraid to bring the child over because they fear that they will be arrested by the police. We just urge anyone who finds him to even just leave him in the yard at our home. They don’t even have to come in to inform us,” a senior family member said.

She did not want to be named or photographed either.

She added that she was worried about the empty shacks nearby.

“Some of those shacks have been left open and they are not occupied. A child could just go into any one of them and go to sleep when they get inside,” they said.

Northern Cape police spokeswoman, Colonel Priscilla Naidu, said that they have sent police officers to Warrenton to search for the child.

“Police units (the K9 unit, search and rescue unit, the stock theft unit on bikes as well as the mounted unit) are currently in the vicinity assisting in the search. Flyers with the child’s picture and description have been posted everywhere and the police as well as members of the community were doing house-to-house searches and interviewing the residents. On Sunday, a police helicopter flew above the area in search of the child,” Naidu said.

She asked members of the community who had information in relation to the missing boy to contact the boy’s mother on 076 249 5508, the Warrenton police on 053 497 4101 or the Warrenton Station Commander, Captain Moleko on 082 448 7693.

The mayor of the Magareng Municipality, Elizabeth Manopole, said the municipality would continue to assist the family to find the missing child.

“If the child is not found by tomorrow, I will call a community meeting over this matter to see how we can further assist,” she added.

The Northern Cape chapter of Autism SA as well as that of the Disabled Children’s Action Group have also offered support to the boy’s family.

“Autism is neurological condition and people who have it have communication barrier. They find it hard to communicate. Those who have it are also hyperactive,” Autism SA’s provincial leader, Ruth Blood, said.

According to Autism SA’s website (www.aut2know.co.za): “Autism is a lifelong, complex condition that occurs as a result of disordered brain growth, structure and development.”

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