KwaZulu-Natal police are warning parents to be on the lookout during the busy festive season, for child-snatching syndicates, operating in public spaces.
According to police, the number of children who go missing at this time of the year is usually high.
The 2022 Strategic Organised Crime Risk Assessment report by the South African Police Service notes that KwaZulu-Natal after Gauteng has the second-highest number of kidnappings of adults and children in the country.
According to the South African Police Service, a child goes missing every five hours in South Africa.
A child goes missing every five hours in SA: 6 November 2022
As the festive season kicks in, concerns are escalating. Parents and guardians are urged to be extra cautious. It is believed that child kidnapping syndicates are using this opportunity to snatch children from unsuspecting parents. Shopping centres, beaches and tourist areas are particular hotspots.
KwaZulu-Natal Police spokesperson, Robert Netshiunda says they are making an appeal to take parental responsibility for their children.
“We are making an appeal to take parental responsibility for their children. They must never leave their children unattended. We are making this call because we have come to realised that there might be a syndicate out there that targets children. In the past few years, children have been missing more during this time of the year. We are saying to parents to be in the know of where their children are at all times. If you are going to the shopping malls make sure that you call them by hand. Keep them with you always.”
Netshiunda says their festive season safety operations will see an increase in police visibility in key areas.
“We are going to have point where missing children can report. We are encouraging parents to know our numbers to identify where we are and stop us when they see police moving. We are at your service, but above all of that we say parents please be responsible.”
Children’s rights organisation, Operation Bobbi Bear says at the end of the year they shelter an increasing number of children who are victims of abuse. S’bongisile Ngcobo is the child safety officer and trauma counselor at Operation Bobbi Bear.
“We deal with a lot of cases during the festive season. Children are being trafficked, they are being raped. Some parents during this time of the year are usually having fun and less cautious. We always tell parents to ensure that they know where their children are and who they are playing with. We are facing a serious problem. We are going to have a lot of kids coming in at this time. We also go out to police stations and do counselling. There are a lot of kids that need help. Police sometimes bring the kids here even social workers also.”
Provincial MEC for Social Development Nonhlanhla Khoza says even during family gatherings and when children are visiting relatives for the festive holidays, parents should monitor their children’s wellbeing.
“We are worried about the family gathers and many children are neglected by that time. So we are very much worried. We urge parents and communities out there. Child trafficking is real. Children are kidnapped for a number of reasons sadly others are killed for muthi, other are kidnapped and sold to parents who are unable to have their own children. I am also very much worried about children who will be visiting families away from home this festive season.”
Parents are urged to report their missing children immediately because the first 24 hours after a child goes missing are the most crucial. Police say the sooner the investigation starts, the higher the chances are of finding the child.