Residents march to Soshanguve police station to demand that more be done to curb the growing number of abductions related to human trafficking.
PHILILE Gumede, 23, a teacher from Soshanguve, went away with her “white Facebook boyfriend” a day after her graduation ceremony and has never been seen again.

The part-time DJ and model was awarded her honours degree in education at Tshwane University of Technology on April 21.

She taught English, creative arts and life orientation at Baleseng Secondary School.

Gumede met her boyfriend on the social media site in 2015.

Her family expressed worry at her mysterious disappearance and accused the police of dragging their feet to arrest the boyfriend.

They strongly believed the boyfriend to be a chief suspect on the strength that he was the last person to be seen with their daughter.

Her brother Sibonele Gumede said: “We are not coping anymore. We can’t even eat and my mother has diabetes.”

He said he received a call on Monday alerting him about Gumede’s whereabouts in Pretoria West.

“I told the police about the call but they said I should go there on my own.

“When I got there, one of the people in Pretoria West said she was taken by a red Golf, which I know belongs to the guy.”

Gumede met the man on Facebook almost three years ago, according to the police.

Her brother said: “If the police would have assisted us on that day Phindile would be here with us.”

Police spokesperson Constable Zanele Mtshweni said police raided the suspect’s home in Rietfontein on Monday, but found nothing incriminating.

Mtshweni said the boyfriend was approached as one of the suspects and questioned in connection with a mysterious disappearance of the teacher.

The suspect told the police that he dropped off Gumede at Soshanguve Crossing Mall the following day and had never seen her again.

Her cellphone was switched off.

Scary details of Gumede’s disappearance emerged at an anti-human trafficking march convened by the DA yesterday.

Angry community members marched from the school, where Gumede was working.

They marched to the police station in the township, where they handed over a memorandum of grievances.

They complained about rampant incidents of human trafficking in the township.

Demonstrators held up placards that read, “Protect our girls. Stop human trafficking.”

They bitterly complained about the slow pace of investigation into the missing persons cases.

The march was organised by the DA after it received several complaints regarding the police who allegedly didn’t take cases related to human trafficking seriously.

Christopher Ngobeni, DA chairperson in Ward 36, said the missing teacher case was not the only one.

He shed light on three more cases of people who reportedly went missing since last year.

Ngobeni said the community was concerned that relatives of the missing persons were not kept abreast of the police’s investigations.

One of the cases involved a 17-year-old pupil, who was reported missing, but was subsequently found by her parents with an older man in Hatfield earlier this week.

Ngobeni said another person who mysteriously disappeared was a cashier at a local shop, who was last seen at a recreational park in Soshanguve Block XX on June 16 last year.

Jack Mothapo is also missing.

He was last seen on January 29 with his friend on their way to Kempton Park.

The friend, Isaac Mashigo, came back home safely.

Mothapo’s phone has been switched off and his family asked the police to evoke Section 205 to obtain its records.

Mothapo’s brother, Phineas, who was at the march, said: “I still have hope that he is still alive.”

The police didn’t readily have information about the cases of the other missing people.

Mtshweni said Gumede was originally from KwaZulu-Natal and had a sexual relationship with a man from Rietfontein, whose identity has been withheld by the Pretoria News.

“He said they met on Facebook and had a sexual relationship.

“He said it was nothing serious and that he knew Philile was seeing other people,” said Mtshweni.

Mtshweni said Gumede was active on Facebook, but was not an open person in real life.

She said the police had applied Section 205 to obtain her cellphone records.

“One of the reasons why we couldn’t open a kidnapping case was that Philile left willingly and the boyfriend alleged that he brought her back the following day,” she said.

Tshwane council Speaker Katlego Mathebe, who was at the march, called on the Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula to prioritise training in fighting human trafficking.

She said people who were trafficked were taken forcefully by their captors and often forced into prostitution.

“I want the police in the capital to tell us how many people went missing in the city.

“We have to strengthen our legislation to be able to address human trafficking,” Mathebe said.