A human-trafficking ring is suspected to be behind the abduction of 46 women in Gauteng and other parts of the country, who have been rescued after they were found locked up in a dingy room in Joburg.
Family members of a Joburg woman, who was apparently on the verge of being shipped out with dozens of others to an unknown destination before she was rescued, have expressed their relief and gratitude.
Oxfam senior media and communications manager Isaac Mangena yesterday confirmed that the women were rescued after being held captive in a room.
He said Julia Dingiswayo was found along with 45 other women packed into the room, where some of the women had been held captive since January.
They were preparing to be “shipped overseas by ruthless and dirty men”, according to Mangena.
Julia was apparently abducted last month while on her way home from work, after leaving the Gautrain platform at Park station in central Joburg, where she took a metered taxi, which had apparently led to her kidnapping.
According to her ex-husband Kholisile Dingiswayo, Julia was found on Sunday night “through the help of some good leads”.
The 43-year-old mother-of-three had been missing since May 13.
“We would like to thank comrade Isaac (Mangena). We found her locked in a room with other women ready to be transported overseas.
“These ruthless kidnappers must be stopped. Those women were in a very bad state, and some had been there since January,” said Kholisile.
He described Julia as being traumatised, adding that the ordeal had affected his ex-wife severely, to the point where she was struggling to speak about her ordeal in captivity.
“Julia is distraught and doesn’t seem to be coping. I think she has been through a lot. If she cannot even tell those close to her what happened, I don’t think she will be able to tell anybody else right now,” Kholisile said.
His views were echoed by his eldest daughter Karabo, who had sent out an impassioned plea on social media for her mother’s safe return.
Karabo, who lives in North West and was travelling to Joburg yesterday, said the past month of uncertainty had been a difficult time for the family.
“I am very relieved and I just want to see my mom; the one thing I want to do is to see my mom,” an emotional Karabo said.
She added that after a frantic search for Julia, her stepfather, together with Kholisile, had found her mother, who was being held captive in a room.
The family, however, declined to reveal the circumstances of her rescue at this stage, with Kholisile saying all would be revealed “at the right time” when Julia was ready to talk about her weeks in captivity.
Gauteng police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo confirmed that a missing person’s case had been opened by Julia’s second eldest daughter after she went missing.
Masondo said the victim had yet to make a statement to the police about her safe return.
Masondo said he could not confirm whether Julia and dozens of other women were on the brink of being trafficked by a syndicate.
But he said the police knew of Julia’s mysterious disappearance.
“We will need to take the statement from the victim first. Investigators cannot be led on the basis of rumours which we have been getting.
“We appeal to anyone in the public who has information about this case to come forward and assist the police,” Masondo said.
Kholisile added that the mother of his children had been taken to see a doctor, where a number of tests had been conducted to ascertain whether Julia had sustained any injuries.
“Physically, a person would be drained if you were exposed to conditions which you are not used to for over a month.
“Having no adequate food, no water and other things which you require will affect anyone,” Kholisile said.
“We are trying to address all those matters. And we have taken her to the doctor. The tests have been run, and until there is a conclusive report on the tests, I will not be saying anything more,” he said.
He expressed joy and relief at Julia’s safe return, saying the feeling was shared by their children and the rest of the family, who were frightened after her month-long disappearance.