Reports of random kidnappings involving children and women circulating on social media have caused panic and fear in many communities in spite of assurances from the police that there have been no reported increase in the crimes.
The Gauteng Province Community Police Board this week released a statement that these reports are creating fear and panic, although “there is no notable statistical increase in the reporting of these shocking instances”.
The statement added that the spike in the number of “fake” news on social media occurred after the recent “Bella Napoli, Florida incident” went viral on September 11.
“The assault incident was erroneously labelled as a human trafficking attempt and sparked a wave of unverified and exaggerated claims around the serious issue of child kidnapping, abductions and human trafficking,” the statement read.
But for the families of Siphesihle Maluleka, 16, Philile Gumede, 28, and Hamza Khan, 30, the narrative of abductions, human trafficking and kidnappings is real because they have experienced it and are living it.
Siphesihle was recently found more than a week after she went missing from her North West home.
According to her father, she was about to be trafficked after her cellphone was pinged in Cape Town days after her disappearance, allegedly after being invited to the mother city to celebrate her birthday which was a couple of days before her disappearance.
“I believe that it was a syndicate because, firstly, she met these guys on social media, and they enticed her with a fancy lifestyle and promised her a birthday celebration.
“A video on her phone that I managed to access via a software that helps me mirror her phone, revealed that she was on a plane on the 12th of September. But how did she get onto a plane when she doesn’t even have an identity document?
“That for me confirmed that she fell easily into a human trafficking syndicate,” Nick Motloung said, while emphasising how well planned this was. “For them to even organise fake IDs and pay so much money just to get her to Cape Town.
“I don’t think she is fully aware of the danger that she was in. But for these people to go as far as fly a 16-year-old to Cape Town tells you how organised this crime is.
“My daughter was lucky, but how many more are never found? Our children are under threat and it is high time for the government to take this matter seriously.”
Unlike the family of Siphesihle who were lucky to be reunited with their daughter, the family of Philile Gumded are still waiting for news of the whereabouts of their daughter.
Gumede was last seen with a man she was dating and known to the family. They were allegedly going out to celebrate the graduation for the young teacher’s Honours degree.
But she never returned, although the man allegedly said he dropped her off at the mall but no CCTV supported his claim. Eyewitnesses have alleged that he was accompanied by two other African males.
“This man has been in trouble before with a similar case of missing girls in 2015, but he still enjoys life while we don’t know where my sister is,” said Sbonele, Gumede’s brother.
“Our case was withdrawn because apparently there was not enough evidence, even with the countless leads we have presented to them. The justice system in South Africa and the police continue to let us down.”
Sbonelo, who said he has tried various ways to escalate his sister’s case, including having a conversation with the then minister of police Fikile Mbalula at a community engagement in Soshanguve the same year.
“Since this year, no one has said anything to us about this case. So while the police are dragging their feet and aren’t taking human trafficking cases seriously, our sister is missing everyday and it hurts,” he said.